'Taulima Tautai's charge the latest embarrassment in a year scabbed by drama for Wigan Warriors' - comment

And the hits just keep on coming.

Wednesday, 12th June 2019, 9:06 pm
Taulima Tautai in derby action. Picture: SWPix
Taulima Tautai in derby action. Picture: SWPix

Just when it appeared Wigan were back on track, on and off the field, along came news of another arrest.

Another bloodied nose, for the club and the sport.

This time, Taulima Tautai, drink-driving.

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He is the third current player caught drink-driving in eight months.

Since the previous incident, another player - Gabe Hamlin - has been suspended for a UK Anti-Doping violation, too, which inevitably led to questions about what off-field standards were expected at the club.

At the time, executive director Kris Radlinski admitted they would review their processes but insisted they had a strong programme which offered players "no better service".

"When they leave, they go into the real world, they make their own decisions," he said in April.

"All we can do is continue to drive and reinforce that there are challenges out there."

He was talking about Hamlin, but the same logic - that players make their own decisions - applies here, too.

Clubs can set the tone, and punishments - and after a string of incident, it's a fair question to ask whether they are doing that adequately.

But they can't hold the players' hands 24/7. If they are given education, warnings, reminders of their responsibilities, if they see team-mates fined, banned for driving, publicly humiliated... I wonder how much more can be done.

Rightly or wrongly, I'd cut a bit more slack if Tautai had been caught the day later and was just over the limit.

Cut a bit more slack, too, if this was a kid at the start of his career who had made an error of judgement.

But Tautai was caught at 4.10am in the morning, was twice the drink-drive limit - and at 31 is one of the club's most experienced players.

Others will broaden this out into an 'alcohol and athletes' debate, but this happened two weeks before his next match, and the amount he consumed was not excessive - if he had not got behind the wheel. It is unacceptable to drink-drive.

He will, of course, reflect on this and know he's let himself down.

For all the good work he has done off the field - not long ago, Tautai cut his hair to raise money for a cancer charity and helped launch a Respect Her campaign after visiting a women's refuge - he has made a huge mistake which has let down his club, his sport, and his fellow players.

Tautai's legal representative says he is threatened by deportation; on the surface that sounds harsh, given other overseas players have done worse and stayed. Wigan will carry out their own internal investigation into what he did. I imagine they will also be reviewing their own practices and procedures, too.

Because bigger picture, this is another blow to a campaign scabbed by unwanted drama, off and on the pitch.