Zak Hardaker expecting tough duel with Danny Brough when Wigan Warriors face Wakefield Trinity
Zak Hardaker expects to have his hands full tonight - facing a kicker he rates as the best in Super League.
Veteran halfback Danny Brough has joined Wakefield this season, helping them climb to fourth in the table.
And Wigan full-back Hardaker says the fellow Yorkshireman gives him more problems than any other kickers in the competition.
He said: “I love playing against Danny, it’s always challenge. When he’s on the ball, its very nerve-racking as a full-back.
“He’s the hardest kicker to face. He’s a different breed when he’s kicking, he can send me right then kick it left.
“There have been a few times where we’ve had a bit of a do. He’s a competitor and I love that about him.
“Wakefield were already a good side, they’ve a huge pack, and when they signed him I thought he could be just what they were missing.
“The games that I’ve watched them this year, Danny has got man of the match 80 per cent of the time.”
Brough is also Wakefield’s goal-kicker - a role Hardaker has taken on board at Wigan.
He had been in good form with the boot, with a strike-rate of around 80 per cent, but was off-radar in his last match when he kicked just two goals from six attempts at former club Castleford last week.
“I had a bad hamstring so I couldn’t kick all week and that messed with me a bit in preparation and it played on my mind a bit,” the No.1 explained.
“I’ve taken note from that and done plenty of practice this week to keep on top of it.
“It’s something I do enjoy but I had an off day that week. I’m looking to rectify that this week.”
At 27, Hardaker is not old by any stretch but he could be forgiven for feeling his age in a side expected to feature young forwards Liam Paisley, Liam Byrne, Ollie Partington and Morgan Smithies - and he is happy to play a leadership role.
“I’ve always been a bit of a leader on the pitch, even when I was younger at Leeds,” he said. “It’s easier when everyone knows their roles.
“If they’re 19 or 36, when they come on they know their roles and exactly what to do. And the young lads at Wigan have always shocked me at how well they’ve done.
“They throw themselves about a bit on the pitch which I like, it’s great to see.”
The backs have also been bitten by the injury-curse, with scrum-half Jarrod Sammut and winger Dom Manfredi both suffering knee injuries in the 38-28 loss at Castleford - the latter ruled out for the season.
Hardaker, though, insists their losses have not damaged his confidence in the side.
“I’m really gutted for Dom, it’s a massive shame, when we played together I thought it was brilliant,” he said.
“We’ve lads who can cover each other’s back and help out when there’s injuries so we shouldn’t be too worried.
“When Tom Davies comes in, he’s experienced and a really good winger and Jake Shorrocks (replacing Sammut) as well.
“He was one of the best trainers pre-season, he’s one of the best passers in the club, left to right and off the floor, and he is also one of the best kickers - so to be able to put him in there it’s like ‘Brilliant, no dramas’.”