Wigan Warriors’ big-name signing Zak Hardaker has been arrested for drink-driving.
The rugby league bad boy, who is on the comeback trail from a ban in the sport for cocaine abuse, will appear in court just two days before the Super League Grand Final, which his new team has a good chance of reaching.
A spokeswoman for West Yorkshire Police issued the following statement: “Police have charged a 26-year-old man from Pontefract with driving whilst under the influence of drink, driving whilst uninsured and driving without an MOT.
“Zak Hardaker will appear at Leeds Magistrates’ Court on October 11 2018.”
Warriors followed this up with a statement of their own.
"Wigan Warriors confirm that they are aware of an incident involving Zak Hardaker on Tuesday evening (25th September) which has seen the player charged with driving with excess alcohol," he read. "He will appear in court on Thursday 11th October. The player is co-operating with the Police investigation.
"Wigan Warriors will allow the legal process to take its course.
"The club will be issuing no further comment at this time."
UK Anti-Doping rules prevented Hardaker from starting training with Wigan until earlier this month.
While Warriors will wait for this legal process to run its course, Hardaker's arrest will inevitably lead questions about his own future with Wigan.
Chairman Ian Lenagan, in signing the full-back earlier this year, suggested that while he was prepared to give players with a chequered past another chance, Hardaker could well be in the last chance saloon.
He said: “We encountered a man who, after eight months of reflection, openly admits that he has made a series of significantly poor decisions over the past few years.
“Crucially, we also saw someone who recognises that this is the final opportunity to focus on delivering the achievements his talent should generate.
“I have had the experiences in business and sport of offering contrite individuals the final opportunity and environment to learn from their mistakes with some notable successes and occasional failures."
Hardaker signed for Wigan in May but can not play yet as he is serving the ban for taking cocaine which only runs out in November. He was suspended by Castleford Tigers last season in the days leading up to their Grand Final against Leeds that October.
A former England international, the former Leeds and Penrith back has won the Steve Prescott Man of Steel and was also shortlisted for the coveted award just days before he was handed a doping ban.
But his career has been littered with off-field dramas. He was thrown out of the 2013 World Cup for breaking a drinking curfew and was sent on an anger management course by previous club Leeds after he beat up a student.
He was also banned for homophobic abuse before being slapped with a 14-month ban for taking cocaine. When he signed for Wigan in May, he vowed to clean up his act in a candid interview with WiganToday.
When he was reminded he had apologised for past off-field issued and asked what made this time different, he relied: “Before, even if I’d been suspended, I was involved in rugby league. And now – watching it on TV, not being around lads – it’s frustrating, I felt like I’ve wasted a full year of myself.
“I know, for a fact, if I have any issues outside, I’ll talk to someone. I’ve found that difficult before and I’ve just bottled it up, and that’s been the problem.”
He went on: “There will be fans who think, ‘Why have we signed him?’ I know, and it frustrates me, because if you know me you’ll know I’m not too bad.
“Rugby league has people from different backgrounds... I don’t want to be portrayed as someone who always gets it wrong, but not everyone is Mr Right.
"It’s just people who don’t know me, they see what I’ve done and think (negatively). “My head space was good last year, it was just the sticky situation in September – but it won’t happen again. I know what I need to do if I’m low or down... I can say there’s nothing to worry about.
"I’ll be here with my girlfriend, and I’ll be concentrating on what I want in life, and that is to be successful at rugby.” Wane spoke highly of Hardaker’s character only earlier this month.
"He said: “He’s a good character, off the pitch as well he’s a good lad to be around but some of the boys will learn a lot from him.
“Wherever he’s played, whether it’s full-back, centre or in the halves, his games have been good and he’ll be a good asset to the side and a good player to have around the place.”