Zak Hardaker: Wigan Warriors sign suspended ex-Castleford & Leeds full-back

Zak Hardaker in action for Castleford Tigers
Zak Hardaker missed the 2017 Grand Final because of his positive drugs test

Wigan Warriors have signed former Castleford and Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker, who will join them when his 14-month drugs ban ends in November.

The England international, 26, is serving a suspension after testing positive for cocaine in the build-up to the 2017 Super League Grand Final.

Hardaker had his ban backdated to September 2017, when a trace of the drug was found in a urine sample.

The 2015 Man of Steel has agreed a four-year deal with Wigan.

"This wasn't a decision that we made lightly," Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan told the club website.

"We had extensive conversations with Zak and his family before making our offer. 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."

'Final opportunity'

Hardaker, a domestic treble winner with Leeds Rhinos in 2015, will start training with Wigan in September.

He was dismissed by Castleford in February after his positive test - having helped them to the League Leaders' Shield for the first time - and missed the 2017 World Cup in Australia.

"We saw someone who recognises that this is the final opportunity to focus on delivering the achievements his talent should generate," Lenagan said.

"My team at Wigan will manage, mentor and test him through this period of rehabilitation and development and, hopefully, guide him back to being one of the best players in Super League."

Wigan head coach Shaun Wane added: "Zak is an outstanding competitor and a hugely talented individual who will understand the culture at our club."

The long-expected announcement of Hardaker's signing comes four days after it was confirmed that fellow England full-back Sam Tomkins will leave Wigan at the end of the 2018 season to join Catalans Dragons.

Analysis

Dave Woods, BBC rugby league correspondent

Hardaker has shown contrition before but has still found a way to find himself in trouble. This is genuinely his last chance.

Any fans of Wigan and English rugby league will be hoping he can keep his focus.

As one of the major talents of his generation, it would be a huge disappointment to him disappear from the rugby field again.

If Hardaker can steer clear of trouble, he still has enough of a career ahead of him to ensure his talents on the field define him.

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