Sacked back in February this year after failing a drugs test at the end of last season, Zak Hardaker’s name has been one of the most mentioned in the sport of rugby league in recent times. While he is undoubtedly one of the most talented players in England, he has had a run of off-field issues which have seen him represent Leeds and Castleford in recent times as well as an NRL spell with Penrith.
Last month’s confirmation, however, that the 2015 Man of Steel winner has been hit with a shorter-than-expected fourteen month ban from the sport – backdated to the date of the test in September – has seen the rumours of a move to Wigan become more and more believable with many sources suggesting that the deal has, in fact, already been signed. Able to resume his playing career in November, the 26 year old will be able to get a full pre-season under his belt with a new club and the strong links with the Warriors seem to draw into question the future of Sam Tomkins, the full-back being linked with Catalans Dragons.
Providing he gets the support he clearly needs after a multitude of off-field indiscretions, there is no doubt that he can, once again, be one of the best players in Super League. His signing is, however, simply a gamble. If he was highly disciplined, the chances are he would have been offered a real crack at the NRL before now, as opposed to his short sting Down Under in 2016, such is his talent. Any club who offers him a long term deal is a bold one as he has form for failing to see out such contracts but, if they are willing to sign him, Wigan are clearly confident in their ability to tame the former-Featherstone star.
One thing is for sure – Hardaker is a top-quality player. His Man of Steel nomination last season and inclusion in the Super League Dream Team show just that. If he can get back to that form with Wigan once he signs, he will be part of an incredible back line which possesses the likes of Liam Marshall, Joe Burgess and – if he extends his deal – Oliver Gildart.