New Castleford Tigers player Zak Hardaker says the chance of teaming up again with head coach Daryl Powell was a major factor in making his move from Leeds Rhinos to the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
Pontefract-born Hardaker was given his chance in professional rugby league when a teenager at Rovers and Powell was the head coach – and he still lives near the Tigers boss.
The 2015 Man of Steel admitted he has previously seen the Tigers as rivals, having started at Featherstone Rovers then playing for the Rhinos, but he is looking forward to having the Cas fans behind him in 2017.
He said: “Being a rival club pretty much all my life, it’s a little bit different coming to Castleford, but it’s just an exciting type of club to come to at this time in my career.
“It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to now.
“Daryl Powell being here is massive. I worked with Daryl when at Featherstone. He was the one that brought me on as a young kid. I was in the scholarship at 13 and he signed me when I was 16.
“He’s nurtured me a little bit when I was younger and he’s massive for me. He knows me as a person, which is vital for myself, and as a player obviously he knows what I’m like. It was a big factor in me coming here.
“Most of the boys I also know. I only live five minutes down the road so I know a fair bit about Castleford already.”
Hardaker is initially on loan for a year with a fee for a permanent transfer agreed to be taken up next November if the move works out and he intends to make the most of his opportunity to impress.
He said: “I’ve got an opportunity that Cas, Daryl and Steve, the chief executive, have given me so I’m looking to perform as well as I can do. Hopefully the team performs as well, which the last few years they have, then from there if everything goes well a deal might be struck at the end of the year.
“But I’m not looking further than this year and will try to take each couple of weeks as it comes and try to play to the best of my ability. I’m really in a good place and I can’t wait to get started.
“Since Daryl took over he has taken Cas to a different level and they play a real attractive style of football that I think will suit me.
“The squad’s really excited. They’ve not been far off in the last few years and with a few more signings they’ve got this year we are expecting big things.”
Hardaker is out to recapture his Man of Steel form with Castleford and his England place after he was left out of this year’s Four Nations.
He added: “I thought I was already doing that with Penrith.
“Even though I didn’t play as many games as I’d have liked in Australia I thought I did pretty well.
“It was probably the best I felt playing-wise and head-wise for a while and I was happy with how I was going.
“But the difficulty is not many people watch the NRL over here so it might have gone a little unnoticed.
“I’m looking forward to doing it all over here and let everyone know I’m in pretty good shape.”