Hardaker set to come back
Leeds Rhinos full-back Zak Hardaker is poised to make his return from a broken thumb in Sunday's Grand Final re-match with Warrington Wolves at Headingley.
Hardaker, who was in the Rhinos team that beat the Wolves 26-18 at Old Trafford in October, inherited the number one shirt from Brent Webb at the start of the season but broke his thumb in the third-round match against Salford City Reds in February.
He has missed the last six matches, including the World Club Challenge, but had the plaster cast removed yesterday and is hoping to be named in coach Brian McDermott's team to face Warrington.
"I've had scans on it and it's healed really well," Hardaker told RhinosTV. "I practised today with it with the ball and it feels really good.
"It's a big relief now and I'm looking forward to cracking on with the rest of the season.
"With the number one shirt, I really wanted to play well this year for my club and, with the World Cup at the end of the year as well, it was a bit of a setback and a frustrating time when I got injured.
"I've got a couple of days' training to do and hopefully I'll get picked on Sunday."
The return of Hardaker would enable makeshift full-back Kallum Watkins to revert to his normal centre position but McDermott says the former must prove his fitness in training if he is to face the Wolves.
"He's been in a pot for a while now so he's going to have to get some strength back in it," he said. "We're keen to get Zak back in the team and he's keen to get back in so we won't be making him wait too long."
Leeds have lost Ryan Bailey through suspension and have injury doubts over two other forwards, Ian Kirke and Brett Delaney, who were hurt in Sunday's 27-12 win over Catalan Dragons in Perpignan.