He may not be able to return to playing until November but Shaun Wane has insisted that Zak Hardaker’s influence, while training with his new side Wigan, can play a part in their bid for Super League success this season.
The former Man of Steel began training with his new club this week after being forced to sit out almost a year of his career due to a failed drugs test, and while he can’t play again professionally until November 7th, the terms of his ban imposed by UK Anti-Doping mean he can train prior to that.
Wane, who insisted months ago that he had no objection to Wigan handing Hardaker a career-resurrecting lifeline, admits that as a player his influence and presence in training can immediately help to bring out the best in his Warriors team-mates, as they aim for Grand Final glory in the play-offs.
“He’s been good,” Wane said. “I’m gutted he’s not available to play and I can’t pick him for Friday. I like him. He’s a competitor and I like the way he trains. He’s a good athlete; has been good in video too, speaking well to the lads. He’s a confident lad. He spoke in front of the group and we all welcomed him properly.
“I am gutted, as I say, that I won’t get a chance to coach him for a game. “We’ve got some big sessions left and (hopefully) five games coming up, so we need to make sure every session is upbeat and intense and Zak brings that attitude and intensity. I like training to be good. I don’t like any dips and Zak adds to that. He seems as though he’s loving it.
“He’s like Sam Tomkins; he just competes. If you’ve only got a game of touch going on, you can tell he’s on and he wants to win.”
“He’s come in and he’s been pumped and all the other players are happy. I’ve never seen Batty (John Bateman) as pleased!” Wane joked. “He won’t do captain’s run but he’ll be out there defending.
“He’s been whacked about already. He’s missed all that time and he’ll be sore when he wakes up, but I wish I could have picked him for Friday (against Warrington).
“He’d have been in.”