IT IS going to be fascinating to see what Wigan Warriors do with Zak Hardaker now.
The troubled former England full-back was found guilty of drink-driving on Thursday following the latest of his long list of indiscretions.
It was with rich irony that Hardaker’s court date was just two days before this Old Trafford meeting, just as Castleford Tigers had learned about his failed drugs test two days before their own Grand Final appearance last year.Dave Craven
He admitted being more than twice the drink-drive limit during the incident last month and was given a 20-month driving ban as well as a £1,810 fine. Hardaker had tried running away to avoid the police.
All of this while still serving his 14-month ban from rugby league due to cocaine use and just weeks after starting training with Wigan, the latest club to give his career a much-needed lifeline. What must owner Ian Lenagan be thinking?
When announcing his signing in May (Hardaker cannot play until November) Warriors went to great lengths, in a far-reaching interview with Brian Carney, to make sure the player had to answer numerous questions about that drugs ban. He explained why he wouldn’t make the same mistakes again, how he would make the most of what, essentially, was a last-chance saloon. He had changed, he had learned the errors of his ways. Wigan would see the very best of him.
Yet, now, Wigan could sack him before he has even played a game for the famous club. Whether or not they will remains to be seen.
General manager Kris Radlinski quite rightly will not discuss the matter until next week given the club have the small matter of a Grand Final to contemplate this evening.
It was with rich irony that Hardaker’s court date was just two days before this Old Trafford meeting, just as Castleford Tigers had learned about his failed drugs test two days before their own Grand Final appearance last year.
Back then, of course, Hardaker was a central part of Castleford’s side and his absence was a contributory factor to why they ultimately failed against Leeds Rhinos. He hasn’t even pulled on the jersey for Wigan yet, but do the club – and more importantly incoming coaches Shaun Edwards and Adrian Lam – really want to build a side around such a clearly unstable character?
It is a difficult call to make. Wigan will realise if they can get Hardaker on the straight and narrow they will have one of the best players in the competition. But that is no easy task.
During his chequered career so far he has already admitted assaulting a student, been found guilty of homophobic abuse, failed a drugs ban and now this.
Personally, I like the advice of his agent Craig Harrison who highlighted how all of his much-publicised mistakes tended to stem from alcohol.
He suggested Hardaker undergoes daily alcohol tests during the course of the season and, if he failed, he would be out. It is perhaps a road Wigan may go down if – and it is a big ‘if’ – they decide to retain the 26-year-old.
The club will know, however, if they do let him go there will still be a queue of rivals ready to take him on and he could end up causing them problems from an opposition camp instead in 2019.
They have already invested time, money and no little effort on him, but for such a dangerous act of sheer stupidity, Hardaker can have no complaints if axed.
He turns 27 on Wednesday. Wigan are probably already wondering if he will be out celebrating. Therein lies the problem.