Hardaker handed long term deal

Leeds have handed centre Zak Hardaker a new contract, keeping him at Headingley until the end of the 2016 season.

Hardaker, 20, has enjoyed a remarkable rise up the rugby league ranks, coming through at Championship side Featherstone before being snapped up by the Rhinos, for whom he was won Super League and World Club Challenge winners medals.

Head Coach Brian McDermott said: “Zak is one of the most exciting young British players in our game and we are delighted to reward his progress so far with a new contract. He knows he still has a long way to go in his career but he has had a fantastic start and we will continue to work hard with him so he can fulfil his potential as a world class player.”

The defeat at Hull on Saturday marked Hardaker’s 50th senior appearance, which also includes a couple of games for the England Knights representative line-up, and he boasts a try-scoring record of more than one a game, with 54.

Hardaker said: “When I signed for Leeds two years ago, I was prepared to work hard for the next few years and earn my opportunity in the team however things have had happened so fast since then. There are still a lot of things I need to work on but having a long term contract gives me the confidence and time to reach my potential, it also shows me that Gary (Hetherington) and Brian McDermott are happy with my progression and want me to be part of the club moving forward.

Hardaker was named joint Championship Young Player of the Year in 2010, his debut season, after helping his then club Featherstone to the Grand Final, which they lost 23-22 to Halifax.

Weeks later, he signed for Leeds for an undisclosed fee, and was sent back to the Rovers on loan, scoring five tries in five appearances.

But injuries to Ben Jones-Bishop and Lee Smith at Headingley, gave Hardaker his first Super League appearance, against St Helens, and he hasn’t looked back since, becoming the youngest Leeds player to win a Grand Final, scoring the final try in the 32-16 defeat of St Helens in October.

For 2012, Hardaker took over the number four shirt, vacated by departing veteran Keith Senior.

He added: “Being awarded the number four squad number this year was a massive boost to me and getting so much game time this season has really helped me. Hopefully over the course of this new contract I can show the club, fans and hopefully my country what I can do.”

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