Castleford Tigers have signed England full-back Zak Hardaker on a permanent deal from Leeds Rhinos for a fee of £150,000.
His new four and a half year deal with the Tigers will begin on 1st July 2017 and replaces the current loan deal between the clubs.
After winning the treble with Leeds in 2015, Hardaker became unhappy at Headingley early in the 2016 campaign and was loaned to NRL side Penrith Panthers for the remainder of the season.
With no future for Hardaker at Leeds, he was initially loaned to Castleford for this season where he has settled well, playing a major role in helping the Tigers go seven points clear at the top of the Super League table.
He also scored a brilliant solo try in Friday’s 23-12 victory over the Rhinos as he returns to his best form ahead of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
“I am really thankful for opportunity that Daryl Powell and Steve Gill gave me to come to Castleford at the start of the season,” Hardaker told the Castleford Tigers website.
“To get the chance to stay here, I just jumped at the offer! I have fully enjoyed my time here so far and I think we have a couple of exciting years ahead of us. It was an easy decision to stay here once I got the offer.
“The fans are amazing! It’s quite a close-knit community and the fans are so loyal. It’s great for myself to be around the club and I really enjoy playing for the people of Cas.”
Speaking on the deal, Castleford head coach Daryl Powell was delighted to have tied down the man he gave a debut to as Featherstone coach when Hardaker was just 18.
“Signing Zak is a huge deal for the club. For quality players and indeed International players to come to Castleford and then want to stay and commit their long-term futures here, I feel says a lot about us as a club.
“Zak is continuing to improve as a player and I believe he will continue to do so over the coming seasons.
“I look forward to working with Zak and helping him to firstly to do something special with Castleford and then grow as an International player and play in the World Cup at the end of the season.”