Wigan say they will not allow new signing Zak Hardaker’s conviction for drink driving to disrupt their preparations for Saturday’s Grand Final.
The former England full-back, who has signed a four-year contract with the Warriors, has been given a 20-month ban from driving after performing an “amateurish attempt” to evade police officers whilst more than two times over the drink drive limit.
Hardaker’s appearance at Leeds Magistrates Court, where he pleaded guilty to the offence, came just 48 hours out from the club’s 10th Grand Final appearance at Old Trafford.
A Wigan spokesman said: “We are concentrating on the Grand Final and will release a statement early next week.”
The 26-year-old former Leeds full-back, who was named Man of Steel in 2015, is still serving a 14-month ban for cocaine use.
He signed for Wigan in May and, although he is not officially allowed to join up with them until November 8 when the ban expires, he was allowed to begin training at the club a month ago.
Just days later, in the early hours of September 26, he was arrested by West Yorkshire Police.
The court heard how Hardaker had drunk “two gins and six pints” when officers spotted him driving erratically, prompting him to pull into a cul-de-sac along Knottingley Road, in Pontefract, West Yorkshire.
Prosecutors told how Hardaker, who had been to a pub earlier in the evening, was seen to exit his Ford Fiesta via the driver’s side and, along with a passenger, run away from the police on foot.
Officers then attended the player’s nearby home, where he initially denied that the vehicle was his or that he had been driving it at the time of the offence.
The court was told that, upon being taken to a police station, Hardaker “came to his senses” and admitted his offences.
Prosecutors said that he gave a reading of 74 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath – the legal limit in England and Wales being 35.
Hardaker, who appeared on court lists under the name Zak Dakin, was fined £1,810 and banned from driving for 20 months by District Judge Paul Currer, who told him: “A vehicle is a dangerous piece of equipment that can cause untold damage.
“You indulged in stupidity in asserting that you were not the driver and that it was not your car.”
Hardaker was told that the driving ban would reduce to 15 months if he were to complete a drink drive rehabilitation scheme by November next year.
Nick Hammond, defending, told how the sportsman “takes great pride” in his status, adding that any ban from driving could threaten his professional contract.
Speaking about his client’s initial attempt to evade officers, Mr Hammond said: “He made what he has described as a grave error of judgement.
“He panicked. There was an amateurish attempt to avoid the attention of the police when they initially saw the vehicle.”
The controversial Hardaker will now face an anxious wait to discover if the case will affect his future at Wigan.
He was thrown out of England’s World Cup squad in 2013 for a breach of discipline and in 2015 agreed to pay £200 in compensation and write a letter of apology to a 22-year-old man under a “community resolution” after admitting assault.
Sacked by Castleford after news of his failed drugs emerged just days before the 2017 Grand Final, Hardaker was given a “final chance” to rebuild his career by Wigan who identified him as a straight replacement for Sam Tomkins.
Club chairman Ian Lenagan said at the time: “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.
“Crucially, we also saw someone who recognises that this is the final opportunity to focus on delivering the achievements his talent should generate.”