Zak Hardaker: Which club will the former Man of Steel be playing for in 2023?

We are almost a month into the Super League off-season and still Zak Hardaker is without a club.

After playing for Leeds Rhinos in their Grand Final loss against St Helens, the versatile back has yet to announce where he will be plying his trade in 2023.

After just turning 31, Hardaker has more than a few good years left at the top of his game and his performance in the Grand Final showed that as he was one of Leeds best players.

Letโ€™s take a look at how Hardaker got into this situation and where the former Man of Steel could be come gameweek one of the 2023 season.

His 2022 season

Hardaker started his season at the Wigan Warriors where he played nine games and scored three tries, spending much of his playing time at centre. Hardaker was granted an immediate release from the Warriors in April, citing the reason he was too far from his family home and the commute was too much. He then pursued a contract with a Yorkshire-based club, which he secured with the team where he achieved large amounts of success, Leeds Rhinos. Hardaker joined the club at a difficult period with the Headingley outfit struggling for form, arriving around the same time they announced Rohan Smith as their new head coach. The pair inspired the club as they made the Grand Final with Hardaker making 18 appearances, scoring two tries, as the Rhinos narrowly missed out on the big prize at Old Trafford.

Current situation

Following the conclusion of the Grand Final, Hardaker has played once more for Leeds in their friendly against New Zealand and was not picked for Shaun Waneโ€™s England squad despite a strong finish to the season.

He is currently without a club following the conclusion of the season, with his name being floated about to a number of clubs including back to Leeds. One of the main reasons Hardaker hasnโ€™t gone back to the Rhinos is due to salary cap restraints but he could possibly return if they have any departures.

Leeds Rhinos official twitter account posted a picture of Hardaker in the clubs new kit to wish him a happy birthday, a gesture which has got Leeds fans questioning if his return is more of a ‘when’ than an ‘if’.

Possible destinations

Leeds Rhinos

The only thing seemingly keeping Hardaker from renewing with the Rhinos is the salary cap. With off-season moves fully in swing, any Rhinos departure could lead to Zak playing at Headingley once again. Any possible move for Jack Walker could be the catalyst for this move, though there is no sign of any movement at present.

Hull FC

With the loss of Jake Connor, Hull need a player who can fill a skill position and could turn to free agent Hardaker. Although the club have signed Tex Hoy who can play fullback, a Super League veteran in Hardaker could be exactly what Tony Smith needs to get his FC side off to a good start in 2023.

Featherstone Rovers

With Sean Long now in charge of Featherstone, Hardaker may be tempted to join the club after working with Long at Leeds in 2022. Hardaker has previously played for Featherstone in the very early days of his career and geographically it fits what he is looking for in a club. With Rovers looking for promotion, the signing of Hardaker could be a shrewd move to bring them out of the Championship.

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