My First Game: How a hat-trick kick-started Zak Hardaker’s career

If you score a hat-trick on your debut, the chances are you’re something special.

Despite all the trials and tribulations during his career, there’s no doubting Zak Hardaker’s talent, and that will something he will be hoping does the talking at Wigan in 2019.

It’s his 10th season as a professional, having made his debut back in February 2010 for his first club Featherstone.

He said: “It was against Hunslet. I scored three tries but I was stick thin. I can remember it was windy, it was raining, it was freezing.

“I think my first try was a bit of support, play went down the middle and I ran around the full-back. It was when I was quite fast so brings some memories back!

“I had a great time at Featherstone, it was only a couple of years, but some good memories.”

The game was a Northern Rail Cup pool match against Hunslet Hawks in March 2010, played at South Leeds Stadium on a Thursday night.

Rovers would run out comfortable 68-0 winners, in a season where they would romp to the League Leaders’ Shield before losing the Championship Grand Final to Halifax.

Zak Hardaker

Their coach back then was of course Daryl Powell, who would be reunited with Hardaker later in his career at Castleford.

It was very much a second string Featherstone outfit on Hardaker’s debut, with the likes of Tommy Saxton, Iain Morrison and Jessie Joe Parker adding a little bit more experience.

Hardaker would go on to score a total of 27 tries for Featherstone in 19 appearances, before joining Leeds at the end of the season for a transfer fee of around £60,000.

Zak Hardaker

On a personal level, he has been named in the Super League Dream Team three times, and was the 2015 Man of Steel.

He has won three Super League titles, two Challenge Cups and a World Club Challenge at Leeds, as well as a League Leaders’ Shield, something he won for the second time with Castleford in 2017.

Despite his domestic success, he has been limited to just five international appearances, the most recent coming against Samoa in 2017; though he was the starting full-back in all three tests against New Zealand in 2015 as England won the Baskerville Shield.

Zak Hardaker

Zak Hardaker’s “My First Game” – Hunslet Hawks 0-68 Featherstone Rovers, Thursday 4th March 2010

Hunslet: Nathan Larvin, Corey Challenger, Danny Cook, Richard Knight, Michael Mark, Stuart Young, Nigel Scott, Nicko Slain, Darren Robinson, Joe Helme, Jake Wilson, Michael Kelly, Charlie Wabo. Subs: Gareth Firm, Neil Lowe, Steve Brook, Russ Dale.

Featherstone: Zak Hardaker (3T), Larsen Marabe (T), Danny Allan (T), Tom Saxton (T), Thomas Carr, Jessie Joe Parker (2T), Aaron Dobek (1T, 10G), Iain Morrison, Ben Kaye, Jode Sheriffe, Matty Dale, Dane Manning, Jack Lee (T). Subs: Michael Coady, Tony Tonks, Ross Divorty (T), Gareth Williamson (T).