Zak Hardaker doing his talking on the pitch... quite literally!
Zak Hardaker says there is one benefit to playing games behind-closed-doors – being heard on the pitch!
The centre admits he is one of the most vocal players in the Warriors side.
And coach Adrian Lam says he was surprised – and a bit amused – at just how much talking he did on the pitch when Super League restarted with no crowds.
“When you see someone slacking I like to remind them,” smiled Hardaker.
“When the fans are there, sometimes you’re not heard. Now, with no fans, you can shout at people and they can hear you.
“Even in a good set, sometimes they call a move and players can say, ‘I didn’t hear you, I didn’t know what was happening’.
“There’s pretty-much no excuse for that now.
“You’ve got Sam Powell ruling the ruck, Jackson is very vocal, and I’m a voice in the team – I’ll say what I think it’s right or wrong. I’m always talking – and sometimes it may get on the boys’ nerves.”
Hardaker admits he has had to apologise to team-mates on more than one occasion for speaking his mind.
“At Leeds, one time we were playing Warrington and Ian Kirke wasn’t doing his job right. Brian McDermott said at half-time, ‘Is there anything you boys want to say?’” he recalled.
“I left it for five minutes, just bubbling away, and it got too much for me and I went at him quite hard.
“Straight after the game I apologised! I’ve done it to Joe Bullock as well, not to be nasty, but I’ve told him he could be one of the best props in England but some of the things, if they’re a bit sloppy, I’ll tell him.
“I think everyone knows now what’s said in training and in games, it’s taken in good stead, it’s not malicious, it’s not personal.
“It’s about being a Wigan Warrior and if you’re not bringing your best to the team and if you’re not quite there, you’re reminded of it.”
Hardaker, who switched from full-back to centre this year to accommodate livewire No.1 Bevan French, says he is taking personal pride in the right edge’s proud defensive record.
“I don’t think many come down that side,” he said.
“Matty Peet (assistant coach) calls me and Dom the ‘bash brothers’, and then next to me Tommy – the hardest-hitter in Super League history – and then Willie Isa, too.
“If you’re spotting Tommy, your researchers have done something very wrong!
“His initial hit – it puts people straight off. Gaz O’Brien ran at him the other day and someone tweeted him and said he shouldn’t do that.
“I said, ‘Don’t worry, I did it in 2011 and I never did it again’!
“There are times Willie Isa tackles someone and then Tommy is there, in his ribs... it hurts from where I’m standing, so I don’t know how they feel.
“Having that presence, I hope other teams see it and think it’s not an edge they want to go down.”
Wigan have had a perfect run since the competition restarted and will be heavily fancied to keep that going when they take on Hull KR tonight.
Coach Lam admits he is a fan of the Robins’ attacking flair and variety but given the contrasting fortunes of both sides, is guarding against complacency creeping into their own preparations.
“The danger is they think, ‘It’s top v bottom’, but I think we’re in a different place with our standards,” said Lam. “We respect everyone the same, if we take them lightly it will come back to bite us.
“They’re a team that if you allow them to play they’re quite skilful and they can move the ball a lot.
“They’re very similar to Cas – the best preparation for Hull KR, is the game we just had against Cas (which they won 30-22).
“The challenge is to stay to our standards.”
Kick-off tonight is 6pm and the game is live on Sky Sports.
Hull KR (from): Murray, Hadley, Minchella, Ryan, Lawler, Minikin, Livett, Ellis, Litten, Keyes, Abdull, Linnett, Parcell, Gee, Storton, Lewis, Peteru, Kenny-Dowall, Hauraki, Dagger, Maher.
Wigan (from): Hardaker, Hankinson, Gildart, Burgess, French, Leuluai, Powell, Isa, Farrell, Flower, Greenwood, Oliver Partington, Byrne, Manfredi, Clark, Bibby, Smith, Wells, Hastings, Bourouh, Shorrocks.