Hardaker ready to tackle England teammates

Zak Hardaker says the lines of communication have been cut between himself and fellow Englishmen Josh Hodgson and Elliot Whitehead of today’s elimination semi-final.

Penrith take on Canberra in the ACT, with the winner just one game from the NRL grand final.

Hardaker is friends with both Hodgson and Whitehead and usually in regular contact, but not this week.

“I’ve not spoken to them yet,” he told Love Rugby League.

“I was going to speak to them after the [Cronulla] game, but I thought I should probably not.

“The good thing about the English lads out here is that we’ve got a Whatsapp group so there’s a lot of banter on the group.

“I was going to text them and come up a with a joke, but I’m not really good at jokes so I’ll leave it at that.

“I wanted to see if Josh was all right, but I thought it might be a bit of a rubbish move to see if he was playing or not.”

Hardaker has kept a close eye on the Raiders this season, who finished second on the table in the regular season.

“Where the English guys play I tend to try and watch those teams purely to see how they’re going,” the former Leeds fullback said.

“I was good mates with ‘Hodgy’ before he came over and Elliot, I’m quite good mates with him.

“He was really excited to come over so I was keen to watch Canberra.

“They were interested in me before I came out so that made me a bit more aware of Canberra.

“They were playing really good rugby, they’ve got big, massive forwards and the backs like Croker and Leulia, Rapana, they’ve all been performing outstanding.

“It’s a big test for us.”

Hardaker has mainly been used off the bench in the NRL but is tipped to start in the centres today with Waqa Blake out injured.

The 24-year old believes the Panthers can get the edge over Canberra if they can get parity in the middle of the field.

“The last few games I’ve watched they’ve scored a lot of points but conceded a lot as well,” he said.

“If we can match them in the forwards, take the sting out of the game early on, especially the first 20 minutes half an hour.

“That will probably go a long way… If we can keep the scoreboard quite low then that will be better for us.

“We’ve got a lot of magical players who can win a game.

“If we can keep it a close game with 20 minutes to go that will help us.

“All the boys are excited, it’s going to be a great game.”

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