ZAK HARDAKER has been through enough off the field to sink many men – but he believes those experiences make him the star he is today.
To say the Castleford star has a chequered past is probably an understatement.
He was dumped from England’s 2013 World Cup squad after an incident that saw him given a written warning by former club Leeds and fined.
Then in 2015, he paid £200 compensation as part of a ‘community resolution’ after admitting assaulting a student.
Last year he spoke of the loss of an unborn baby to an ex-partner while admitting he used prescription drugs when things collapsed around him.
Now, after a stint at NRL side Penrith last term and speaking to a psychiatrist, Hardaker is through the other side and back to the star he was.
However, the full-back still looks back on the ‘bad old days’ as the motivation to drive him forward.
He said: “When I was younger, I was living with my mum and trying to be out with my friends at the same time, so I was trying to mix the two.
“Then last year I rented a house and that brought its own problems and a lot went on.
“Now I’m more settled, I know exactly what I’ve been doing and I know what I want in the future.
“I’ve had to put up with loads off the field and people keep bringing it up, but it’s happened and I’ve come through it and I can speak about it.
“Things happen in life but it’s how you come through them and without them, I probably wouldn’t be the player I am. That’s why I think it’s been great for me this year.
“I just concentrated on being the best player I can be and just being myself in certain aspects and not doing anything wrong.”
Hardaker, 25, opted to move ‘home’ to Castleford, where family and friends can keep a keen eye on him from just down the road, after his time at Leeds came to an end.
And things could not have gone any better. The Tigers’ won the League Leaders’ Shield and stand just 80 minutes from the Grand Final.
He is also on a three-man shortlist for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel honour and looks a certainty to be included in England’s World Cup squad.
But he revealed that the competitive nature among Daryl Powell’s men extends beyond matches as he and assistants Ryan Sheridan and Danny Orr have been known to take part in training.
And dirty tricks are not off limits, particularly in wrestling training.
Hardaker, who will face St Helens tonight, told SunSport: “Daryl has done it in training a few times and gets stuck in with us.
“Ryan used to and there have been a few times where Danny has tackled me. He’s really competitive. If we have a bit of a wrestle-off, he just wants to win and you can’t let up as if he wins, you’ll never hear the end of it.
“You go to war sometimes. In pre-season we have wrestling and if there’s an odd number, Danny gets drafted in. He sometimes even gets his head in there!
“I remember he did it it Tuoyo Egodo very early in the season. Tuoyo was going to win, so Danny pulled his hair a little bit, which took him off his game and he ended up winning.
“It was a massive decision to move, for both parties, but it couldn’t possibly have gone any better.
“I probably put more pressure on myself than what I actually had. I wanted to get back into the England fold, to stamp my authority and be the best full-back and get back to where I had been in my career.
“There was no more pressure than what I put on myself. I was really eager to show what I’m made of this year and being at Cas and coached by Daryl has been pretty beneficial so far.”
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