Super League champions Wigan are to stand by Zak Hardaker following his conviction for drink driving.
The former England full-back, who has signed a four-year contract with the Warriors, was last week given a 20-month ban from driving after it was revealed he was more than two times over the drink drive limit.
Wigan say they have concluded an internal investigation and agreed with the 27-year old that he should undergo a period of treatment for his relationship with alcohol through the Sporting Chance Clinic.
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The club say Hardaker will also be monitored closely by them before entering a daily programme that will include volunteer work, work experience, mentoring days and wellbeing meetings with player welfare manager Steve McCormack.
Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan said: “Firstly, I’d like to make clear that we are extremely disappointed with Zak’s actions on the evening of the 26th September.
“Drink driving is completely unacceptable and we are pleased the matter has been dealt with by the courts so firmly. Nonetheless, we have thought long and hard about what the correct thing to do is for Wigan.
“It would be easy for us to cut our losses with Zak and deny him the opportunity to play for Wigan but we are not going to do that.
Zak Hardaker was in court last week
Image credit: PA Sport
“Our duty of care as employers is to help Zak address the fundamental problems that he has had for some time – issues that we believe could and should have been confronted already.
“Zak will enter a residential facility in the coming weeks and how he commits during this course will not only define his rugby career but potentially set him on a more productive path for the rest of his life.
“We realise there is no guarantee that this will happen – but – regardless of the outcome – we feel this professional and responsible approach is the only way forward for someone so obviously showing the signs of a man in need of some serious help.”
Lenagan added: “Let me be clear – Zak fully understands that he is employed on our terms and under strict conditions.
Hardaker has been told he has making up to do
Image credit: PA Sport
“He knows he has a lot of making up to do. In what should have been a special week for the club, we could have been distracted by the actions of a player who has yet to pull on our jersey.
“But he has shown genuine remorse and is determined to repay the faith that we are showing him.”
Hardaker, 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 just over a month ago.
Just days later, in the early hours of September 26, he was arrested by West Yorkshire Police and a week ago appeared at Leeds Magistrates Court under the name Zak Dakin.
Hardaker, who was thrown out of the 2013 World Cup for a breach of discipline and punished for homophobic abuse in 2014, says he now hopes to put his past behind him.
Hardaker said: “I’d like to wholeheartedly apologise for my actions. The first thing I need to accept is that I have a problem and I’ll be throwing all my efforts into sorting that out.
“I’d like to thank Ian Lenagan, Kris Radlinski and the Wigan club for supporting me through this and I will do everything I can to repay their faith in me.
“My sole focus now is confronting the issues that have stopped me becoming the player and person I’d like to be.”
Sacked by Castleford after news of his failed drugs test emerged just days before the 2017 Grand Final, Hardaker was identified by Wigan as a straight replacement for Sam Tomkins.
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