Zak Hardaker insists there are no reasons for both he and his Wigan team-mates not to find their best form in 2020 and win some silverware.
Hardaker made an impressive return to playing in 2019, following a year out due to a drugs ban. However, he was ultimately unable to help guide the Warriors to a successful defence of their Super League title, though he did earn a late call-up into the Great Britain tour for the trip to the southern hemisphere.
And the former Man of Steel admitted to League Express that he has high expectations for both himself and his club next year, and he believes he can get even better than he was in 2019.
“Last year when I was coming back, I stated that Great Britain and Man of Steel were aims of mine.. And the latter one obviously didn’t happen,” he laughed.
“It was a new team, with new structures and a new coach. I wasn’t doing too badly, but there was nothing spectacular, to be honest. Everyone was expecting me to replicate those long-range, amazing tries at Castleford – and I think I probably was in a way, so it was a bit frustrating.
“But I realised quickly that while I wasn’t where I was before, I’m very happy here and I’m not going to get too carried away with things. My confidence was coming back strong as the year finished, and I can’t wait for 2020 now.
“My fitness is back, the routine of training and getting used to all that again is back and towards the back end of the year, I genuinely felt like I hadn’t missed a year at all – whereas at the start of the season, I definitely felt it.
“I’ll be very hard on myself if I don’t play well next season. It’s not very often I don’t set high standards but I’m really expecting big things of myself. There’s a lot of pressure that comes with playing for Wigan, and we’re expected to come away with trophies. We didn’t do that in 2019 and we have to put that right now.”
Hardaker’s form in 2019 has seen him rewarded with the number one shirt for 2020, which he admits is important to him.
“I was number one at Leeds, number one at Castleford and now I’ve got the shirt at Wigan. You look back on things like that with great pride when you retire. I was targeting the one shirt for 2020, so that’s a big thing ticked off already. To get it is great.
“I think we’ve recruited really well for 2020, and as I say, with high standards here, I think we can do something special. I will play wherever is required for this team, but obviously to be number one, that’s a big deal.”
Hardaker will be joined at Wigan by close friend Jackson Hastings in 2020, and he admitted he’s looking forward to linking up with the Man of Steel, despite a scare over whether he was going to come to the Warriors at all.
“I think it was a bit of a difficult situation in the sense that some people couldn’t get hold of him back in Australia, and that caused a bit of panic which got into the press,” he said.
“I was in touch with him throughout and we’re ready to rip in for a really big year together. There are a lot of people here in 2020 who will be motivated by the disappointment of falling just short. We want to go one step better, as I’m sure Jackson does, so for him to be in the group is really special. There’s the potential to do something very exciting here.”