Castleford’s Super League Grand Final hopes have been dealt a devastating blow after the club sensationally dropped star full back Zak Hardaker.
The Tigers announced yesterday that the England international will not take part in tomorrow’s Old Trafford showpiece after ‘a breach of club rules’.
The 25-year-old finished runner-up to teammate Luke Gale for Super League’s Man of Steel award on Tuesday night, which honours the player of the season, and was set to play a big role in the final against Leeds.
Castleford Tigers have left Zak Hardaker out for Saturday’s Super League Grand Final
However, announcing a 19-man squad for the sell-out in Manchester, a brief Tigers statement read: ‘Zak Hardaker is unavailable for selection due to a breach of club rules. The club will make no further comment at this point as full attention is focused on Saturday’s Grand Final.’
There was no further comment from The Rugby Football League, Castleford or the player’s agent.
Hardaker has been an inspirational figure in what has been a fairytale season for the club, who are appearing in the Grand Final for the first time.
A £150,000 signing from Leeds in June following a successful loan spell, he has scored 13 tries in 30 matches over the course of a memorable campaign.
Hardaker was also thought to be a certainty for England’s World Cup squad, which heads to Australia later this month, but his place on the plane now appears to be in doubt. England coach Wayne Bennett will be awaiting developments as he is set to announce his 24-man squad for that tournament on Monday.
England international Hardaker will not face Leeds following a ‘breach of club rules’
Hardaker has a controversial past. In 2013, he was dropped from the England World Cup squad for a breach of team discipline.
The following year he was handed a five-match ban and fined £300 after being charged with making a homophobic comment during a Leeds game against Warrington. In 2015, he was quizzed by police following allegations of assault at a student hall of residence. While he did not face criminal charges, he agreed to pay £200 and apologise to the victim.
Hardaker, who won three Grand Finals with Leeds, was later sent on an anger management course and the club fined him a month’s wages following an internal investigation.
While Hardaker fails to learn his lessons having suffered a similar ban from England in 2013
Before Castleford announced their shock decision, Sportsmail spoke to Hardaker at an Old Trafford press conference.
‘They (the bad times) have gone,’ he said when asked about his past. ‘I’m glad I went through them. I’ve a lot of years ahead of me. I don’t feel it’s too bad a thing. Things happen in life — good or bad. It’s one of those things.
‘I had to go to a dark place and bring myself out of it. Although it was a bit of a dark time, it was a good thing for me.
‘It made me realise what I wanted to achieve in rugby and be the best player I could possibly be.’