Zak Hardaker says Wigan could adapt a ‘horses for courses’ approach to the full-back role this season.
Hardaker was crowned the club’s player of the year after a stellar debut campaign with the Warriors in 2019.
But his ability to play centre – and the late-season recruitment of exciting Australian Bevan French – has thrown a question mark over how they will line-up in 2020. Hardaker insists he is happy to play wherever best suits the team, and floated the idea they could tinker with the line-up depending on the opposition.
“It’s good to have options,” said the 28-year-old.
“Different things and different combinations work for different games.
“I’m not saying Bevan isn’t a strong ball carrier, but I’d like to think one of my strengths is that I’m a ball runner, I like to catch the ball on the full and run with it as hard as I can. So if it’s a big team we’re facing and our strategy is we want to get on the front foot, it could be me there, or if you want Bevan’s support playing quickness, it might suit to have him there.
“When Bevan came in last year I said to Lammy that if it benefits the team to play Bevan there and me at centre, then it’s no bother to me whatsoever.”
Adrian Lam has been waiting for marquee halfback Jackson Hastings to start today to see how the key playmakers gel. Hastings toured the Robin Park training centre yesterday.
Halfback Thomas Leuluai’s ability to switch to hooker as well as French’s versatility – and Hardaker’s ability to play centre – have given the head coach several options, even without considering fringe players such as Jake Shorrocks and Harry Smith.
And Hardaker – who lined-up at centre for Great Britain last autumn – believes the various options will benefit Wigan in terms of providing competition and cover for injuries.
“We’ve got quality in depth, and players that can slot in anywhere,” he said.
“We did a bit of training when Bevan was full-back and I was centre, then Jake Bibby went to centre and I went to full-back and Bevan to stand-off.... there are probably about 10 different combinations you can play in the back line.”
Bibby, recruited from Salford, and Chris Hankinson are the other frontline options for the centre roles until GB international Oliver Gildart returns from a shoulder injury in April.