Zak Hardaker happy to surrender Wigan Warriors' goal-kicking role

Zak Hardaker says he is happy to step aside and let sharp-shooter Chris Hankinson continue with the goal-kicking role.

Wednesday, 3rd July 2019, 5:30 pm
Zak Hardaker and Chris Hankinson, with Liam Marshall

But the full-back will continue to practice his marksmanship in case Adrian Lam’s side need him during the Super League home straight.

Hardaker said: “If Hank plays he can definitely kick as far as I’m concerned, it’s less pressure on me. But if he doesn’t play, I’ll kick, so I’ll carry on practicing in case.

“At Swinton, Hank was around 90 per cent, but I was just the best kicker in the side and that’s why I started the season with it.”

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Centre Hankinson took over the goal-kicking three matches ago – against Leeds – when Hardaker was missing, and kept it the following week when the No.1 returned nursing a hamstring strain.

The ex-Castleford ace was available to kick last week, and had one shot at goal, but Hankinson was first choice as he booted his tally to 16 from 19 – for an 84 per cent strike rate.

To put that into perspective, Super League’s leading goalkicker Marc Sneyd has an 81 per cent success rate, with second-placed Stefan Ratchford on 84 per cent and third-placed Lachlan Coote on 71 per cent.

Hardaker himself has a solid conversion-rate, with 45 goals from 60 attempts for a strike-rate of 75 per cent.

It will be interesting to see what Lam opts for against Hull KR tomorrow night, having hinted Dan Sarginson is to return to the side at right centre.

Hankinson may switch to the back-row but, if so, is unlikely to play 80 minutes.

Whether Hardaker kicks or not, he is hoping he can have his influence on the side after making strides in recent weeks.

His strong defensive displays were one of the positives of a rocky start to the year and he is happy to start showing fans what he can do with the ball, including a try in last week’s 28-12 win against Salford.

“I wanted to hit the ground running and be a Man of Steel contender, but realistically that wasn’t going to happen, it took a few weeks to get into the groove,” he said, nodding to the fact his 2018 was wiped out by a doping suspension.

“Defensively I was happy with how I was going but attacking, in the last six weeks, I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s about everyone knowing each other’s jobs.”