“I was going to sign for Leeds” – Zak Hardaker opens up on how he joined Leigh Leopards

One of the stories of the off-season centred around the future of Zak Hardaker.

A key mid-season signing at Leeds Rhinos and a vital player in Leeds getting to the Grand Final, it was assumed by many that he would be kept on at Headingley.

The Rhinos then juggled their salary cap to find a way to keep him. When Jack Walker joined Bradford Bulls, it seemed certain that Hardaker would sign a new deal at Leeds but Leigh Leopards swooped in and signed the former Man of Steel.

Now, the fullback has opened up on what it was like having that uncertain future.

“Obviously going towards the back end of last year I was going to sign for Leeds and then I wasn’t going to sign for Leeds. And the talk was that I wanted to and Leeds wanted me to, and it was a process that they had to get right as well. There were some things on their side which meant that they had to wait until the death.

“For me, the opportunity came for something different, a different opportunity to what I’ve been used to, a newly promoted team, people speaking about how we hopefully don’t get relegated.”

“I haven’t signed here to be battling for the bottom two places, I’m an ultra competitive person, I want to win as many games as I can,” Hardaker told The Sportsman.

He believes the Leopards can achieve more than just survival:

“Before I signed I was looking at all my options and I was looking at the signings that they were making, the lads that were already there from last year, the coaching staff, and it’s just something that really excites me. I’m going to be 32 before the end of this year and I think you just need a motive and a drive every year.

“I think any team would motivate me because I just don’t like losing, but then the added ambition of a club that just came up and the rebranding, it’s just like a bit of a story to it. So I think that just helps me with the motivation going into each week.

“People will be saying that we might lose every week, and for me that just adds more fuel to the fire. That is something that will excite me going into this year and I think it’s something that we can use as motivation as a squad and as a club.”