Zak Hardaker says revenge is at the forefront of Wigan players’ minds ahead of Good Friday’s mouth-watering derby against St Helens.
The 2018 Super League champions fell to a 22-12 defeat in the season’s opener as Hardaker made his much-anticipated debut in the Cherry and White colours.
But with the 27-year-old set to feature in his first home Good Friday clash, a match-winning performance that will rock the runaway Super League leaders is in his thoughts.
“Revenge is a bit of a buzzword at the moment and they beat us at the start of the season, so revenge would be sweet,” he said. “It’s a massive game for both clubs, the towns are huge, and they do go at each other on social media – it’s great to see.
“It’s a big game for both sets of fans and they deserve something positive to go out with, so hopefully we can send them off in style on Friday.
“The first game of the season was a massive derby, but I was too concentrated on myself, catching the balls as well as I can and trying to get the kicks and do as much work as I can.
“All the outside noise I was trying to block out and there was big talk about whether I was going to be the same player.
“I feel like I have embedded into the team now and I feel like I am back into the swing of things. Each week I’ve been getting better and that’s been really pleasing. I am really soaking up the atmosphere this week and am really enjoying it.”
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Hardaker is no stranger to a derby from his time at Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers, but even as the most ardent of Yorkshiremen, the England international admitted that nothing quite compares to what’s on offer across the Pennines.
“I can’t speak for the Hull derby, but I think this is [the biggest],” he said.
“I spoke to fans on the street and when I was in the supermarket and I know this is a different ball game. It’s definitely like a final and I know that Saints are bringing 5,000 fans, so it adds up to being a tasty atmosphere.
“We’re going to go hammer and tongue at it and it’s a game that I’m really looking forward to.”
With an expected 22,000 fans set to come through the turnstiles on Friday, Hardaker knows there’s much more at stake than settling scores on the pitch – with fans set to play a huge part in the outcome.
“It’s not just bragging rights for the team, it’s bragging rights for the town and as players we recognise that,” he added. “We are really excited by that and hopefully they all turn out on a lovely Friday and we can get the two points.”
Wigan Warriors take on St Helens in the fiercest rivalry in rugby league at the DW Stadium on Friday April 19th, kick-off 3pm. Secure your seat today by calling the DW Stadium ticket office on 01942 311111 or by visiting https://wiganwarriors.com/tickets.
By Max Chesterton