When Zak Hardaker joined Leeds Rhinos over a week ago, the world of rugby league was taken by surprise.
After leaving Headingley back in 2016, Hardaker had forged a career at the likes of Castleford Tigers and Wigan Warriors, but he has since returned like the Prodigal Son to the club where his Super League season well and truly took off.
However, Sky Sports pundit Jon Wilkin had come under fire recently for comments made on the signing.
“I’m surprised he’s gone there and that he’s got a new club so quickly and especially Leeds Rhinos,” Wilkin previously said on Sky Sports.
“He put in a transfer request to leave a few years ago and it’s a sign of where Leeds are at that they’ve signed Zak Hardaker so quickly.
“They are in a crisis, their outside backs have been decimated by injuries and someone of Zak’s experience will be huge for them.”
However, Wilkin did have reservations about the move and the idea that Hardaker is constantly in the public limelight.
“Are sportspeople role models? I don’t think Zak is a role model for young people – there are a lot of sportspeople who aren’t as it’s a position you end up getting thrust into.
“He’s an incredible talent but he’s got too many character flaws to be exceptional at what he does.”
But, Wilkin believes that his comments were taken completely out of context and has defended his role model statement.
“This is the biggest amount of fake news ever,” Wilkin said on the Out Of Your League podcast.
“I got asked was it a surprise that Leeds had signed Zak Hardaker and what I said is the question is for Leeds whether they have brand value that would be challenged by bringing Zak in.
“I said who decided sportspeople are role models because when you get in a position where you are good at sport you are just good at sport but by definition you become a role model and then people analyse you as a role model but I’m saying not everyone is a role model who plays sport.
“I just think there’s one percent of sportspeople who are genuinely role models like Roger Federer and Lionel Messi.”