Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell has warned the rest of Super League that his newly signed full-back Zak Hardaker still has more improvement in him.
Former Man of Steel Hardaker completed his £150,000 transfer to the Tigers from Leeds Rhinos this week, signing a four-and-a-half year deal, and the head coach who gave him his first chance as an 18-year-old at Featherstone Rovers reckons he has become the toughest full-back in Super League.
Powell was pleased with the way Hardaker showed his toughness and handled his return to his former home ground with an eye-catching display in the 23-12 win for the Tigers at Headingley.
He said: “He was tapping the badge and I’m not sure about that one, it’s typical Zak. But the try he scored was outstanding and I thought the high ball take running towards his own posts in the second half was awesome.
“You could collide with the post there and he’s as tough as they come as full-backs.
“He’s also improving all the time from an attacking perspective so for us as an all-round player he’s been outstanding this year.
“He’s a great defensive full-back and statistically we are the best defensive team in the comp, that’s been a huge change. There’s been a few differences and Zak’s been one of them.
“He had big shoes to fill from an attacking point of view in Luke Dorn and he’s been closing the gap all the time towards that, just improving what he does around the back of play and timing. He’s scored some great tries for us and created some quality tries.
“I just think there’s loads of improvement in him. There’s lots of subtlety things he can improve on, but as a tough full-back he’s the best in the comp for me.”
Powell is pleased to see Hardaker playing with a smile on his face, showing how happy he is at Cas.
He added: “There’s loads of things in Zak’s history, but they are history and that’s important, he’s focused on what he’s doing now. He’s been pretty immaculate since he’s been here and I think he’s showing on the field that he’s a happy man.
“For people like Zak the happier they are you get the best out of them and that seems to be the case at the moment.”