It was revealed this week that Castleford Tigers fullback Zak Hardaker had failed a drug test following his teams Super Eights match against Leeds on September 8.
Finally rugby league fans, especially those who follow the mighty Cas’ had an answer to their star player being stood down from the Super League Grand Final. This news also provided a headache for English national selectors who were set to announce him in their Rugby League World Cup squad.
Hardaker will face a ban which is likely to be two years with different media outlets reporting that cocaine was involved.
Whatever ban is handed down, it’s crucial that the Rugby Football League assist in rehabilitating Hardaker during the ban.
Whether it was the pressure of playing the game or the type of crowd Hardaker was surrounding himself with, rugby league has a responsibility to fix the problem and prevent an even bigger issue – mental health.
It could be argued that rugby league administrators either side of the hemisphere leave players out in the wilderness to fend for themselves.
At it’s extreme, former NRL player Ryan Tandy was found dead at 32 of a suspected drug overdose following a lifetime ban after the much publicised betting scandal in a match involving his Canterbury Bulldogs side against North Queensland in 2010.
Ben Barba is a recent example having received a twelve week ban for the use of cocaine after the Sharks Grand Final victory last year. Todd Greenberg in an interview last November said he hoped Barba would get the help he needs without committing to help.
Sandor Earl spent four years in the wilderness from rugby league after being suspended for peptide use. During that time Earl had to ‘fend for himself’ by self-rehabilitating in Thailand before ending up in Melbourne.
Late this week former NRL player Paul Carter was embroiled in an incident at Blake Ferguson’s residence where it’s reported he was asked to leave after a drinking session. Carter was charged with drug offences which resulted in Shaun Kenny-Dowall’s departure from Bondi earlier this year.
The problem isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
We forget sometimes that rugby league players are human and make mistakes. A small percentage of players are faced with the same sort of struggles seen in the wider community in coping with alcohol, drug and gambling problems.
Let’s hope administrators hand an ‘olive branch’ to Hardaker so that he can return a more mature person to compliment his natural talent. The last thing we want to see is a young man dealing with mental issues because he’s been left in the cold.