By Luke Robins
Former Castleford and England full-back Zak Hardaker, banned yesterday for cocaine use in September, will potentially be offered a contract by Super League team Wigan Warriors when the suspension ends in November.
This comes after the ban, widely anticipated to be 2 years, was reduced to 14 months and backdated to September last year, when he originally tested positive for the banned substance.
Until recently he was contracted to Castleford Tigers after spending a year on loan and signing permanently in June 2017. In February though, his contract was torn up by Castleford and now rumours suggest Wigan Warriors will offer him a contract when the suspension comes to an end: but does he deserve it?
England rugby league fullback Zak Hardaker's been banned for 14 months by UK Anti-Doping for failing a drugs test. It's been backdated to September, meaning he'll be free to return to the sport in November. He's been linked with Wigan Warriors #CapitalReports pic.twitter.com/1pVp0SkwPe
— Capital Manc News (@CapitalMANNews) April 30, 2018
There is clearly a question of attitude. Hardaker’s career has been blighted by off-the-field and on-the-field controversies dating back to November 2013 when Leeds Rhinos fined him for “acting unprofessionally” before his withdrawal from the Rugby World Cup.
In June 2014 he received a 5 match ban and £300 fine following reports that he made homophobic comments towards referee James Child.
A year later he, along with another Leeds teammate were arrested following an alleged assault on a 22 year-old student, eventually paying £200 compensation after admitting to the charges.
Then, last September, after a Super 8s game against his former team Leeds, Hardaker tested positive for cocaine in the darkest twist to his antics. It has been reported since that he had ingested 7 pints, 1 litre of spirits and 5 lines of cocaine in a night of bingeing which the Anti-Doping Agency believed “could have killed him.”
Local resident of Castleford and lifelong Tigers fan Bethany was definitely disappointed in Hardaker: “He was a great player for the team but he has really let himself and the team down.”
These incidents do not necessarily mirror the man during the games. Labelled by many as one of the most exciting players in Rugby League right now, the former ‘Man of Steel’ winner clearly has talent in abundance, enjoying a standout season for Castleford and in line to make a big impact at the World Cup in Australia before the drugs test occurred last September.
Much as one hopes Zak Hardaker gets his life back on track and achieves his potential as a player, it’s very hard as a Cas fan not to feel cheated that he will do so elsewhere.
— Kevin Chubb (@swanseagas) April 30, 2018
But, as good a player as he is, his history suggests that he is perhaps not deserving of another chance at reaching his full potential. The severity of his most recent controversy does not set him out to be much of a positive role model to young players and could cause some unwanted negative press for Wigan Warriors if the speculation about a potential contract comes to be true.