However, Wigan stood by the former Leeds player after he agreed to attend a rehabilitation course at Sporting Chance and Hardaker impressed new coach Adrian Lam enough to claim the full-back role ahead of Morgan Escare, who had already been given Sam Tomkins’ old number one jersey.
Hardaker insists he is now a re-formed character and says he is determined to make the most of his latest opportunity.
“It’s brilliant,” he said. “When I signed last year, I was hoping Wigan would win the Grand Final and my mates were saying ‘you could play in the World Club Challenge’.
“It seemed so far away at the time. Pre-season was tough and Morgan got the one shirt so it was all down to training hard and taking my chances when they’ve come.
“I think I’ve done alright in the two games so far and my third is a World Club Challenge, which is a bit surreal, but I’m looking forward to it.
“At first I was just thankful to be playing, I was really happy to be picked, and now I’m getting to the stage where I want to be the best again.
“I’ve got that hunger back and that drive. It’s a big test on Sunday but I love being tested.”