Leigh valued me more: Gutted Zak Hardaker upset by Leeds offer

Josh McAllister
Zak Hardaker Leeds Rhinos

New Leigh recruit Zak Hardaker admits he was “a bit shocked” by Leeds’ offer to retain the 31-year-old international at the club for 2023. 

Instead, the former Wigan centre has linked up with newly-rebranded Leigh Leopards for next season on a two-year deal.

Hardaker had made the mid-season return to Headingley Stadium from the Warriors, and was keen to extend his stay beyond 2022 with the club.

However, after being offered a contract he was less than impressed with, he soon accepted a deal made by Leigh, reuniting with head coach Adrian Lam. 

He was announced by Leigh on Thursday with nine other new signings, including Gareth O’Brien, Jack Hughes and Ricky Leutele.

Zak Hardaker: It wasn’t the deal I thought I was going to get

“It’s been a crazy week,” Hardaker said.From a Leeds point of view, I’ve been waiting probably three months for something to materialise. 

“It’s been a stressful few months, especially with my family, just wanting to know where I’m at for next year. I’m a bit more chilled and relaxed, but with my family in my ear, it’s been a bit manic.

“With Leeds reaching the quarters, then the semis and then the Grand Final, all your efforts are focussed onto that. We had a week off, then we were back in for the Kiwis game, which was a bit strange. 

“Then after that it was like ‘right, I need to get my future sorted pretty quickly’.

“The offer; I was bit shocked.”

“I was waiting for Leeds’ offer and I knew it was Jack Walker they were trying to move on. They did offer me a deal, but it wasn’t the deal I thought I was going to get. It was a one-year deal as well and it just didn’t work out for me, especially with the young family that I’ve got.

“It was the offer as well. The offer, I was bit shocked.”

“I thought I had done enough to show that, I don’t want to be earning a million pounds, but I want to be paid what I’m worth, and it was way off what I thought I was worth.

“The one-year I could have copped if the deal was good. But it wasn’t. When I asked for a second year, I think they were saying Rohan (Smith) is only keen to give me one and they wanted me to basically earn a second.

“At 31, and especially the last few months I gave to Leeds, I didn’t think I should be trying to earn another contract.

“I was gutted. I was really upset as well because my family and everyone was keen for it. But in a world of rugby league, you never know, do you? I quickly moved on from that, came back to Leigh, spoke to them and where I was at and the last couple of the days came really quick.”

Zak Hardaker unveiled alongside rebranding

Hardaker was announced at a live press conference on Thursday afternoon at the Leigh Sports Village, as owner Derek Beaumont confirmed the club’s new rebranding.

They will be known as the Leigh Leopards for their 2023 Super League season.

“When I spoke to Leigh a few weeks ago, I didn’t know about the Leigh Leopards rebrand at the time,” Hardaker continued.

“I didn’t know about some of the players signing either, which is genuine. As the season was going on, I was getting more information about Leigh and the direction they’re going. It was quite exciting.

“I knew they had a strong team anyway and I knew they were keeping a good core of the overseas players and I watched something the other day and they were amazing. 

“That was very appealing and when it got sorted out, a good two-year deal with a club that is rebranding; it’s just exciting and something that you want to be a part of.

“It happened quickly when I agreed, but it has been a long process in the last couple of months.”

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