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Leigh Leopards responding brilliantly to Zak Hardaker drink driving charge

Zak Hardaker has had a very up and down career but he always seems to get back up when the going gets tough.

Zak Hardaker started his career at Featherstone Rovers where it was clear he had potential scoring twice in the 2010 Championship Grand Final defeat to rivals Halifax. In the following off-season, Leeds Rhinos snapped up the young fullback beating rivals Warrington Wolves to his signature.

Hardaker would spend time back on loan at Featherstone before injuries would see him feature on the wing or even at centre for the Rhinos. He would go on to score in the 2011 Grand Final win over St Helens before being awarded the number four shirt in 2012 however he would soon transition to fullback as Brent Webb’s replacement winning the Young Player of the Year award and guiding Leeds to back to back titles.

He would later add the 2014 Challenge Cup, the 2015 treble and the Man of Steel to his collection at Leeds but after a couple of controversies he would leave the club in 2016 to Penrith Panthers prior to joining Castleford Tigers in 2017.

Hardaker catapulted the Tigers to the top of the league but missed out on the Grand Final against Leeds after a failed drugs test which would spell the end for him at the Jungle.

He would join Wigan Warriors next who stood by him after a drink driving charge. After some relatively successful years at the DW Stadium, Hardaker wanted a move back to Yorkshire and returned to Leeds helping them to the 2022 Grand Final but his stay there would be short being snapped up by Leigh Leopards ahead of 2023.

Leigh Leopards standing by Zak Hardaker

Hardaker was an instant hit at Leigh and would be a key feature as they defied the odds to make the play-offs for the first time ever and win the Challenge Cup.

However, on the Wednesday ahead of the 2024 season it would emerge that Hardaker had been charged with drink driving again. This came to light just mere hours after Hardaker had been named in Leigh‘s squad for their opener against Huddersfield Giants.

Despite rumours on fan sites linking him with a move to Wakefield Trinity, Hardaker was named in the side against Huddersfield and Leigh boss Adrian Lam said after the game that there was no question over whether he would feature.

Leigh also issued a statement saying they would support Hardaker which they have done so by not freezing him out of the team.

He has now been named in Leigh’s squad for their second game against St Helens this weekend.

Leigh were successful in getting both Ricky Leutele and Jack Hughes off their bans meaning that both men will be available.

Tom Amone did see his ban reduced to just one match which he will serve this week meaning he is unavailable.

Adrian Lam has confirmed that Edwin Ipape will be out for potentially two months, something that prompted the club to bring Brad Dwyer in on loan from Warrington Wolves and he has now been named within the squad.

Oliver Holmes also makes a return after missing out in Round One, whilst the half-back pairing of Matt Moylan and Lachlan Lam gets another game under their belt.

Leigh Leopards 21-Man Squad

1 – Gareth O’Brien
2 – Tom Briscoe
3 – Zak Hardaker
4 – Ricky Leutele
5 – Josh Charnley
6 – Matt Moylan
7 – Lachlan Lam
10  – Robbie Mulhern
11 – Kai O’Donnell
12 – Jack Hughes
13 – John Asiata
14 – Dan Norman
15 – Matt Davis
16 – Frankie Halton
17 – Owen Trout
18 – Ben Nakubuwai
19 – Ed Chamberlain
20 – Oliver Holmes
21 – Ben McNamara
24 – Umyla Hanley
33 – Brad Dwyer

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