ZAK HARDAKER would be “foolish” if he did not take the chance to make the most of his rugby league reprieve.
Castleford Tigers assistant coach Ryan Sheridan has backed the club’s former England full-back to return to his best after a 14-month ban for taking cocaine.
Hardaker, initially suspended just two days before Castleford’s Grand Final last October after testing positive, was handed his punishment on Monday.
He was expected to receive a two-year suspension like former England team-mates Rangi Chase and Gareth Hock but argued “exceptional circumstances” and will be free to play in November.
The former Leeds Rhinos star, 26, was sacked by Castleford earlier this year and is reported to be ready to join Wigan Warriors for 2019.
Asked if Hardaker will have learned his lessons, former Great Britain scrum-half Sheridan said: “You’d hope so and like to think so. If not you’re pretty foolish if you don’t learn from your mistakes given the second, third chance that you’re getting.”
But Sheridan – who also worked with a teenage Hardaker at Featherstone Rovers – feels he will resurrect a blossoming, if chequered, career that had seen him win Grand Finals, international honours and earn Man of Steel in 2015.
He said: “Yes, as obviously he’s a world-class player.
“I’m sure he’s made a massive mistake but without a doubt I’m sure he can reach the heights he has done over the years before.
“That’s obviously with another club. But we’ve moved on from that, wish him all the best and hope he stays on the straight and narrow so he can finish his career off well wherever that is.”
Meanwhile, Castleford scrum-half Luke Gale – the reigning Man of Steel – is out for three months with a fractured kneecap.
That means he will also miss England’s Test against New Zealand in Denver on June 23.
Sheridan said: “It is a massive blow as he is a key player for us – an international half-back.
“Obviously it’s devastating news for him and for us but we’re a good team and we have players who can fill in and accommodate until he gets back fit.”
Castleford are also without Samoa stand-off Benny Roberts for Saturday’s trip to Hull FC.