Hardaker thrilled to be part of ‘exciting’ Castleford team

Zak Hardaker in action in Castleford Tigers' pre-season game against Hull. Picture: Paul Butterfield
Zak Hardaker in action in Castleford Tigers' pre-season game against Hull. Picture: Paul Butterfield

New recruit Zak Hardaker believes the Castleford Tigers team he is now part of is more exciting than the Leeds Rhinos side which he helped to the treble two years ago.

The Pontefract-born former Man of Steel is not going so far as predicting the Tigers are about to emulate the all-conquering Leeds team of 2015, but he is thrilled by the prospect of playing alongside the talented line-up assembled by Daryl Powell.

He said: “This Cas team is different to the one I played in at Leeds because there’s different types of players, but for me personally it’s a more exciting side.

“With the players we’ve got we can do some crazy things.

“Greg Eden can score some fantastic tries and we’ve got Rangi Chase – sometimes he plays on his own team and nobody knows what he’s going to do, but he is capable of magic. It’s great to be on his side.

“With Luke Gale at seven and Paul McShane at nine we’ve just got some magic players in quite a number of positions. That’s why I’m excited to be part of this team this year.”

As a local lad Hardaker is aware of the buzz around the town that the Tigers could be on the verge of something good.

He said: “Everyone’s walking round with Cas shirts on their back and there’s flags up everywhere.

“At the promos we’ve been doing, going to clubs, the fans have been coming up and saying how much they are looking forward to the season.

“That just brings a bit more of a buzz to the players I reckon because if the fans are really excited and they bring it on to the terraces it shows how much it means to the town.

“With the squad that we’ve built and with the things we’ve put in place in the last few weeks as a club we are quite confident we can achieve something this year.

“I think we’ve been ready for the last four weeks now.

“When we went to Lanzarote I think that was just fine tuning.

“We’ve worked really hard in pre-season. It’s been a long, hard, gruelling one, but good.

“We came away from Lanzarote full of confidence and feel that we are ready for the start of Super League.

“The trial game against St Helens was good to get under our belt for defensive reasons.”

Hardaker stressed the importance of making a good start to the season: “We’ve got some tough fixtures to start with so we need to be on our game straight away.

“We’ve got Leigh, then Warrington and onto Leeds at home so whether we win or lose, how well we do, defensively and attacking wise, will probably set the standards for how we are going to do for the rest of the year.

“It’s massive for us to get off to a good start, we’ve been speaking about that.

“We have to start games well as well. We played Saints last week and put a lot of emphasis on our start and our defensive effort.

“I think we ticked both boxes. We started really well and scored in the first five minutes. Defensively we were really good.

“That’s great in a trial game, but you’ve got to put it in when the first game starts.

“There’s a lot of people saying how good Cas can be this year and that’s all good and well, but it’s no good if you don’t do it on the pitch.”

Hardaker is thrilled that it looks like being a packed Mend-A-Hose Jungle for his Tigers Super League debut tonight against Leigh Centurions.

He added: “Leigh will probably bring a good following so it should be a great atmosphere and a pretty good game to start the season.

“I’ve played some great games down here, obviously playing for Leeds at the time, and the Cas fans are always buzzing.

“All the fans have been telling me how much they are looking forward to the first game. Hopefully they will get behind us and we can get that win.

“It’s been a gruelling 11 or 12 weeks and, as much as players like training, it’s all about playing so I think everyone’s looking forward to Friday night.”