‘Young sportsmen make mistakes... we need to support them’

Zak Hardaker has been strongly linked with Wigan
Zak Hardaker has been strongly linked with Wigan

Shaun Wane says rugby league is right to welcome Zak Hardaker back once he has served his doping suspension.

The coach has made no secret of his admiration of the former Castleford full-back, who is widely-reported to be joining the Warriors when he has completed his punishment.

Hardaker was earlier this week banned for 14-months after being tested positive for cocaine last September.

Wane would not comment on the prospect of recruiting him, repeating his familiar line that he leaves contract-talks to rugby director Kris Radlinski and chairman Ian Lenagan.

But he thinks the sport, as a whole, should be applauded for helping players get back on track.

“We talk about player welfare, we employ a full-time player welfare officer, so when somebody does something wrong, and it’s dealt with by the authorities, what else can we do?” said Wane.

“We can’t get rid of them forever, we need to support them.

“It’s happened to a lot of players who I’ve been involved with and we have to be there. They are young people, young sportsmen, they made errors and we need to be there to support them.”

Wane has previously credited rugby league for providing him with a pathway to a better way of life.

“You get rough and ready people from different backgrounds, and I’m one of them, so I understand what goes on,” he said. “I’m all for helping people be better people and that’s what we are obsessed with at this club, and we’ve done it, and we’ll carry on doing it.”

Hardaker, 26, is a free agent after being sacked by Castleford in the fall-out of his doping suspension. “I know we’ve always been linked with him, but unless I get told something by the senior management here then I’ll just keep going with the team I’ve got,” said Wane.

“If he’s available for next year... I’ve got a massive season ahead of me, ahead of the team, I’ve got three things that I’m hell-bent on winning like every other Super League coach.”

On that front, Wigan can keep the pressure on leaders St Helens with victory against Salford tonight.

The Red Devils, tipped by many to struggle in the wake of an off-season takeover, have had a solid campaign but were thumped 60-10 by St Helens in their last outing.

And Wane said: “That will make them stronger.

“Having that many points posted on you, I can only imagine what would happen if it did happen to us, my team would respond the week after and that’s what we’re going to get I think.

“There are a lot of Wigan lads in their team, they’ve got a couple of people missing like we have, but Salford always play well here so we’ll be giving them every respect.

“We need to be very good to beat them, I’m looking more at what we do, and I want a more complete performance.”