Castleford Tigers have confirmed that full-back Zak Hardaker has joined the club on a permanent basis.
The Pontefract-born England star has signed a new four-and-a-half year deal, beginning on July 1, with the contract replacing the current loan deal from Leeds Rhinos, and it will see Hardaker remain a Tiger until at least the end of the 2021 season.
A transfer fee of £150,000 has been agreed with all parties and the player signed his new deal this afternoon.
The 2015 Man of Steel joined the Tigers from Leeds Rhinos at the beginning of the 2017 season on a year long loan and has quickly impressed coaches and fans alike, helping the Tigers to their current position at the top of the Super League ladder.
Hardaker scored 67 tries in 155 games for Leeds before joining NRL side Penrith Panthers on loan in June 2016. Since joining the Tigers for the 2017 Super League season he’s already scored four tries with 12 try assists.
Hardaker wasted no time settling in to his new surrounding at Castleford. His form in 2017 has been impressive and has earned him his spot back in the England Elite Performance Squad ahead of the coming Rugby League World Cub.
A spectacular solo try in Friday night’s 23-12 win over Leeds Rhinos in front of the Tigers fans cemented his passion for his new club.
He said: “I am really thankful for opportunity that Daryl Powell and Steve Gill gave me to come to Castleford at the start of the season. To get the chance to stay here, I just jumped at the offer!
“I have fully enjoyed my time here so far and I think we have a couple of exciting years ahead of us. It was an easy decision to stay here once I got the offer.
“The fans are amazing! It’s quite a close-knit community and the fans are so loyal. It’s great for myself to be around the club and I really enjoy playing for the people of Cas.”
Tigers head coach Daryl Powell gave a then 18-year-old Hardaker his professional debut while they were both at Featherstone Rovers, with the teenager scoring a hat-trick against Hunslet in the game and he is delighted to have him at Cas now.
He said: “Signing Zak is a huge deal for the club. For quality players and indeed International players to come to Castleford and then want to stay and commit their long-term futures here, I feel says a lot about us as a club.
“Zak is continuing to improve as a player and I believe he will continue to do so over the coming seasons.
“I look forward to working with Zak and helping him to firstly to do something special with Castleford and then grow as an international player and play in the World Cup at the end of the season.”
Tigers chief executive Steve Gill is delighted to confirm the news: “We are all thrilled at Castleford Tigers to be able to bring a quality player like Zak into our squad.
“His form this year has put him back in the England set up, and he has been a great replacement following Luke Dorn’s retirement.
“I would like to thank Gary Hetherington at Leeds Rhinos for the integrity and honesty he has shown throughout the course of these negotiations.”