Hardaker could be rushed into Panthers side

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NRL: Penrith are back in the top eight, after going back to back for just the second time this season, as South Sydney’s finals hopes took another massive hit.

New recruit Zak Hardaker at his first training session with the Panthers. pic Mark Evans

HE’S only just jumped off the plane from England but Zak Hardaker’s next stop could be making his NRL debut on Saturday.

Penrith coach Anthony Griffin has told The Daily Telegraph he is considering rushing the Super League Man of Steel straight into his squad for the crucial game against the Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium.

“I didn’t fly him all this way for nothing,” Griffin said.

Hardaker has joined Penrith on a hit and run mission, signed only for the remainder of the 2016 season.

New recruit Zak Hardaker at his first training session with the Panthers. pic Mark Evans

New recruit Zak Hardaker at his first training session with the Panthers. pic Mark EvansSource:News Limited

After arriving in Sydney on Tuesday night, the 24-year-old had his first training session with his new teammates on Wednesday after playing his last game for Leeds 10 days ago.

Asked if he was a realistic chance of playing against the Tigers, Griffin said: “I don’t know.

“To be honest I just want to have a look at him.

“I wouldn’t think so but we’ll see what happens.”

There’s been some debate as to where Hardaker will best fit into the Penrith side.

With Dean Whare and Peta Hiku out injured, Penrith have used Tyrone Peachey as a stop gap in the centres.

But Hardaker is equally comfortable filling any of the outside back positions.

There has also been some talk it could entice Griffin to fast-track Matt Moylan into the halves, where many believe the skipper will eventually end up anyway.

Griffin immediately ruled that out.

New recruit Zak Hardaker at his first training session with the Panthers. pic Mark Evans

New recruit Zak Hardaker at his first training session with the Panthers. pic Mark EvansSource:News Limited

“I haven’t brought him here to do that,” Griffin said.

“I am being straight up with you, I haven’t brought him here to play fullback and move Moylan to five-eighth.

“He can play anywhere in the outside backs and we are obviously down a few there.

“We have had Peach trying to teach him how to play centre and Waqa (Blake) is going okay.

“They are both doing a good job but if one of them goes down we have nothing, we are back to kids.”

It could be a timely inclusion for the Panthers given the task on Saturday.

While the Tigers are sitting 12th on the ladder, Griffin said no one would be underestimating their strike power after watching their comeback against Melbourne.

“Not many teams have been able to run Melbourne down from 26 in front,” he said.

“Everyone has been saying how bad Melbourne played but when the Tigers got a bit of ball that momentum was very hard to stop.

New recruit Zak Hardaker at his first training session with the Panthers. pic Mark Evans

New recruit Zak Hardaker at his first training session with the Panthers. pic Mark EvansSource:News Limited

“Like all games at this level it is going to be a big challenge for us defensively.”

The match will mark the Origin audition between Moylan and James Tedesco, with many calling for Tedesco’s inclusion in the NSW team for the dead rubber on July 13.

Asked about the danger Tedesco represents, Griffin said: “Speed.

“That is exactly what you are thinking, speed.

“It is hard to defend.

“Their two halves (Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses), they just have a

lot of individual brilliance.

“It is very hard to defend against.”

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