Zak Hardaker landed himself in hot water again this week and Leeds Rhinos could be losing patience with the England full-back.
He and club-mate Elliot Minchella admitted to assaulting a 22 year-old male in university accommodation in Leeds in February. The pair were released without charge by police after agreeing to pay the victim – who suffered bruising to the head and neck – £200 each and write him a letter of apology.
The former Featherstone player was dropped from the Rhinos team that lost at Warrington last Friday; and it has since emerged that the club reported Hardaker and Minchella to the police.
“As soon as we were made aware of the pictures that were on the Yorkshire Evening Post website, we actually rang the police themselves. We were keen to make sure that he helped the police in everything they needed to do. He did that and now we conduct our own investigation,” Brian McDermott told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“We’ve got our own internal investigation; the matter with the police isn’t getting taken any further but we’ve got a bit to do with Zak as it stands.”
It isn’t the first time that the 23 year-old has landed himself in trouble in his career. Hardaker was kicked out of England’s 2013 World Cup squad for drinking after boss Steve McNamara had issued an alcohol ban, although a statement from England at the time cited “personal reasons” behind Hardaker’s “withdrawal” from the squad. However, his club handed him a £2,500 fine for “unprofessional conduct.”
More recently Hardaker earned himself a five match ban for directing a homophobic slur towards referee James Child during a match with Warrington last May.
Now it seems as though the Rhinos’ patience may be running out with Hardaker, especially that of McDermott. “What’s happened is a big thing, a big thing for us and a big thing for the kid who was on the other end of it,” he said of the recent assault. “We don’t view this as a bit of a blip, it’s a big thing for us, I’m disappointed.”
McDermott has named Hardaker in his provisional 19 man squad to take on Wigan this Friday, but that doesn’t mean all is forgiven; “Whether Zak plays or not this week, it doesn’t mean everything is alright. He could have a stormer this week but it doesn’t mean everything is all right,” the Leeds boss said.
Ashton Golding filled the void left by Hardaker at full-back last week, and though he acquitted himself well against Warrington, probably isn’t quite ready for the number one jersey just yet. However, the 18 year-old is named in the squad for Friday’s game.
It remains to be seen just how much of a future Hardaker has at Headingley, but he will likely resume his position in the starting thirteen against Wigan and even beyond – probably more out of neccessity than exoneration.