Zak Hardaker
Photo: Sky Sports

After Leeds confirmed his return to Headingley, Zak Hardaker said it will be like going back to his old school.

Hardakerwon three Grand Finals and was named Man of Steel in the Rhinos’ treble-winning season in 2015. He will stay with the club for the remainder of the season. The player is expected to start against Hull KR at Headingley on Friday.

The decision was prompted by a rash of injuries, notably to Leeds’ outside backs. And it was approved by new head coach Rohan Smith. He is expected to arrive from Australia in time for Friday’s game.

We have had to move quickly,” Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington said.

“Unfortunately, we have suffered injuries to our backline with Liam Sutcliffe and Tom Briscoe the latest to join that list during Friday night’s win over Toulouse. Centre and full-back, in particular, are areas where we have long-term injuries to Harry Newman and Jack Walker, and Zak will provide experienced cover in both these positions.”

After joining Leeds from Featherstone in 2010, Hardaker scored 67 tries in 155 games, predominantly from full-back, and went on to win two Challenge Cups and a League Leaders Shield in addition to his three Old Trafford successes.

“The way I left Wigan wasn’t the way I wanted to leave the club but I would like to thank everyone there for the opportunity to play for Wigan,” Hardaker said,

“This started last year when I wanted to get a chance to come home back to Yorkshire with my family. I have got that opportunity thankfully with Leeds and I can’t wait to play in those Friday night games in front of a packed South Stand again.

“It is definitely a case of ‘you don’t realise what you’ve got until it’s gone’ and I think I let my time at the Rhinos the first time pass me by.”

He left the club in 2016 following a bad run of form to join the NRL’s Penrith Panthers. However, he only made 11 appearances for the Australian club before resuming his Super League career with Castleford.

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Zak Hardaker led the Tigers to their first Grand Final the following year but was forced to resign on the day of the game after testing positive for cocaine.

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