After re-joining with the Wigan Warriors squad after a period of rehabilitation with the Sporting Chance clinic, former England international Zak Hardaker is not only in line to make a big impact in his return to the sport after a drugs ban but also is set to take the goal-kicking role vacated by the now-departed Sam Tomkins.
Wigan’s 2019 head coach Adrian Lam expressed as much to the media. “Zak wants to do it, but we’ll need two or three players who can kick and we’ll work with them all,” he explained, suggesting that Hardaker is in line to start the season as first-choice. All of the Warriors’ kickers will benefit from the continued support of former England rugby union international fly-half Charlie Hodgson who, after working on a part-time basis as a goal-kicking consultant in 2018, will continue in the role next year.
While speaking of the likelihood that 2015 Man of Steel Hardaker will take the kicking duties, Lam also outlined how impressed he has been with the former Castleford full-back so far in pre-season. “You can see here on the training pitch, he’s a natural footballer, with the ball in hand he’s skilful, he’s a strong runner, and he knows what to do in certain situations,” he noted and, given the quality and experience which has left the club in the shape of Tomkins, he may well be exactly the player they need to slot in at full-back. “He’s only just come back in so it’ll take him a couple of weeks to get into the rhythm but everyone is excited about what he can bring,” Lam – a former Wigan player – also added, perhaps with a cautious note.
An aspect that has impressed the former Papua New Guinea player and head coach is the way in which the squad has welcomed Hardaker into the playing fold, especially after his time getting treatment for his relationship with alcohol. “They’ve been kept in the picture and they’ve been very supportive of him, and I think that’s made him feel more at home,” he said, adding that while Hardaker is back with the squad, the club are aware that the player may well need support throughout his time with the club.