Hardaker reaps rewards of dream debut season


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The Independent Online

It is turning out to be a big week in the career of the Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker. On Monday night, he was named as Super League's Young Player of the Year. On Saturday, he will play for the Rhinos in the Grand Final against Warrington.

In between, he has been selected in the full England squad for high-altitude training in South Africa and the autumn internationals against Wales and France.

Hardaker's Leeds captain, Kevin Sinfield, who is also in the squad, said that his team-mate had been impressive since moving from centre to full-back. "He's been a revelation," Sinfield said.

Warrington also have a new name in that party, with Chris Hill celebrating his outstanding first season in Super League by winning a place in Steve McNamara's 24-man squad.

"He is one player who has impressed me throughout the Super League season and he deserves his call-up to the senior squad," said the England coach. "I want to see how he, along with the other young players, adapts to the rigours of international competition."

There will be 12 members of McNamara's band playing at Old Trafford – seven from Leeds and five from the Wolves. There are also call-ups for three forwards who have been playing with great success in Australia – Gareth Ellis, Sam Burgess and James Graham – although Graham faces a hearing tomorrow on a biting charge in the NRL Grand Final that could rule him out for an extended period.

The former St Helens forward was placed on report after a complaint from Melbourne's Billy Slater that he had been bitten on the ear while playing against Graham's Canterbury on Sunday.

Two other English-born players, Gareth Widdop and Jack Reed, have not been considered because they both need shoulder operations, while Chris Heighington has not been selected.Danny McGuire and James Roby have been rested, but Sam Tomkins, who won this year's Man of Steel, and Rangi Chase, who won it last year, are both included. There is no place, however, for Huddersfield's Danny Brough, who reverted from Scotland to England in the hope of winning the scrum-half berth in next year's World Cup. Other recent caps missing through injury are Eorl Crabtree, Jon Wilkin and Danny Tickle.

Elsewhere, Mick Potter, who was announced as Super League's Coach of the Year this week for his efforts in keeping the Bradford Bulls afloat, has expressed an interest in the vacant coaching job at Wests-Tigers.

And Paul Sykes, a key man in Wakefield's late surge to the play-offs while on loan from Bradford, has joined the Wildcats on a one-year contract.