High-profile mid-season signing Zak Hardaker is in strong contention to make his NRL debut in Saturday’s clash against the Wests Tigers.
The reigning Super League Man of Steel has had just two training sessions with his new teammates since leaving Leeds and landing on Australian shores on Wednesday.
But Panthers coach Anthony Griffin believes he has seen enough for a possible NRL introduction at ANZ Stadium.
“He’s had two full days with us now and got his first good night’s sleep last night and he was nice and fresh this morning,” Griffin said on Friday.
Asked if Hardaker is going to play, Griffin said: “Not sure yet.
“He’s a chance. We’ve got a couple of options there at the back end of our squad on the bench, we’ll sort that out before the game.”
Hardaker, 24, is hoping to reverse a concerning trend of failed English flyers to make the transition to the NRL, the most recent of which was former Warriors pick-up Sam Tomkins.
Former Parramatta buy Ben Crooks didn’t get a look-in at the Eels, while Greg Eden is only just starting to find his feet in Brisbane.
Hardaker, who has 68 tries in 142 senior games with both Leeds and Featherstone, comes with a reputation of being one of the most lethal attacking weapons in the Super League.
However Griffin said he was keen to see how Hardaker, who only signed with the Panthers until the end of the season, fares defensively against the attacking structures in the NRL.
“First thing I noticed is that he’s a very energetic, seems like a tough competitor, and the vision we watched of him and the reports we got on him, reflect that as well,” Griffin said.
“That’s the main thing we need him to bring.
“We need him to bring a strong worth ethic and a defensive attitude. If he can get that right, he’s obviously got some things in attack that might be able to help us as well.”