From sour taste to team-mates: Zak Hardaker and Jackson Hastings put play-off clash behind them

Photo courtesy of Richard Long

They clashed on the field in the play-offs as Salford ended Wigan’s Grand Final hopes, but now Jackson Hastings and Zak Hardaker can go in to battle together as team-mates.

Hardaker’s shock call-up to the Great Britain squad means the pair will hook up earlier than planned, on the tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, with Hastings already due to play alongside the former Leeds man at Wigan for 2020.

The Man of Steel orchestrated the demise of his future club to lead the Red Devils to the Super League finale at Old Trafford, where they lost to St Helens.

Hardaker said: “I think we left on a bit of a sour taste after the Salford game.

“It was a massive match for both teams and he’s a massive competitor on the pitch and so am I. I don’t think anyone took a backwards step which is good, and I think I got the hump not with him but how I’d let myself down and Wigan.

“I’ve not really spoken to him since. We speak through social media and stuff, so it’ll be a great chance to talk to him.

“I know he was really keen to get through to the Grand Final and get one under his belt, so I’m sure he’ll be over the moon but gutted at the same time that he didn’t get the win.

“I think it’s just going to make him more hungry for next year which is beneficial for us.”

Like several other players, Hardaker was pragmatic about the inclusion of Hastings, which has caused a stir with some fans and former players critical of the decision to pick Australia-born players, with Blake Austin and Lachlan Coote also selected.

He added: “I’m not sure what the feeling is within the camp. There’s a few opinions being thrown about at Wigan and I’m sure there is throughout the league.

“There’s a lot that can be said. They’ve qualified for GB and they’ve been picked.

“Lachlan Coote put his hand up for Scotland a couple of years ago so he’s put his allegiance to Scotland a few years ago.

“Jackson and Blake have got the rights to play for England and have put their hand up. It’s just about anyone who puts the shirt on giving 110%, and if they do, then you can’t argue with that.”

The 2015 Man of Steel came through the ranks at Featherstone, and also had a stint in the NRL with Penrith Panthers.

After leaving Castleford and his drugs ban, he has re-built his life and career across the Pennines in Wigan.

Never mind teaching the Australians some Yorkshire slang, Hardaker revealed even some of his Wigan team-mates struggle to understand him at times.

He said: “I don’t know if they’ll be able to understand me! Even some of the Wigan lads struggle even now.

“If I’ve had a brief conversation with them in the changing rooms or I’m shouting at half time, one of them will grab me and start laughing when I’m trying to be serious.

“I think some of the words I use when I’m quite riled up are Yorkshire words so some of the lads don’t get what I’m on about, so I think there’ll need to be a bit of a conversation to get through to the guys.”