“He’s a good team guy” – Leeds Rhinos’ Rohan Smith singles out Zak Hardaker for praise

Since the emergence of Bevan French at Wigan, there has been a debate about where Zak Hardaker is best utilised.

He was a fullback to begin with at Featherstone before joining Leeds in 2011 where he debuted as a winger before finishing the season as a top notch centre. He scored a play-off hat-trick at Huddersfield and scored in the Grand Final playing in the role.

In 2012, he started the season as Leeds’ first choice left centre and was excellent but there was an opening at fullback due to Brent Webb’s injury and Hardaker cemented himself there and developed into perhaps the league’s best fullback winning the Young Player of the Year in 2012 and the Man of Steel in 2015.

He cemented that thinking again in 2017 with an excellent season at Castleford being nominated for the Man of Steel and arrived at Wigan seemingly as a fullback but would ultimately spend most of his Wigan career on the wing or at centre due to Bevan French and in 2022 Jai Field.

Now back at Leeds, Hardaker made his second Leeds debut at centre but has excelled at fullback ever since but with plenty of injuries going into the game, it became a necessity that Hardaker started at centre allowing Rhyse Martin to return to the pack meaning Richie Myler returned to the fullback spot.

It was a decision that paid off in Leeds’ thumping 62-16 win over Hull FC with Myler pulling the strings in attack and Hardaker having a top game at centre.

After the game, Rohan Smith singled both out for praise particularly Hardaker for his willingness to swap positions for the good of the team: “Personnel wise I thought it needed to happen this week. We probably weren’t sure what our team was going to look like until midday today but Zak was excited about playing right centre. He’s a good team guy.

“Obviously Myler had a big impact on the game and the parts you probably can’t see is the chat and the glue he connects people with.”

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