On Friday night Zak Hardaker made his second home debut for Leeds Rhinos.
A Man of Steel winner with the Rhinos in 2015 as he won seventh major honour with the club, he left them under a cloud less than a year after that. But now is back at the club and made his home debut for the Rhinos after missing out on the chance straight after his move from Wigan due to a seizure.
Speaking on the club’s YouTube channel after the game, he spoke about how much he enjoyed the experience: “Really enjoyable, the weather opened up for the warm up. The amount of fans that turned out in not great conditions was fantastic and the support was brilliant.
“I really enjoyed it, it’s always a pleasure playing at this stadium. The last few years I’ve not been in a Rhinos shirt, pulling that top on today in front of the fans it’s been fantastic.”
He was brilliant picking up the Man of the Match making 142 metres and busting 6 tackles. This came largely due to the threat he and the rest of Leeds’ back three showed as they linked nicely and made a series of half breaks.
This was a hallmark of the 2015 treble winning Rhinos side as Hardaker linked with Ryan Hall and Tom Briscoe to great effect and Hardaker believes Leeds could produce something similar linking in the back field with Ash Handley and David Fusitu’a alongside him in the back three: “Me and Ash did it quite a number of times a few years ago. When I was here last time it was Ryan Hall and Tom Briscoe and the link up in the back field was quite important and I like to take charge of it. We have big David Fusitu’a there who carries the ball like a forward and Ash Handley who is a freak of an athlete.
“We’ve worked hard in training on that link up. When it gets in the grind and the forwards are tired I can bounce about a bit and Ash is athletic and can hit the right holes he’s quite knowledgeable of where to be. That can only get us better.”
He also believes that the club is building something after a tough start to the season and with a week off ahead of their game against Warrington, they have time to improve more: “We’re building something and if you take context into that game today and probably looked at where Leeds were six weeks ago and today there’s a notable difference. It’s about adding bits.
“We can build and work together.”