Zak Hardaker needs to reform lifestyle says England coach Denis Betts
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 10/10/17 9:33pm
England assistant coach Denis Betts says disgraced former Man of Steel Zak Hardaker needs to reform his lifestyle but does not believe the use of cocaine is a particular problem for rugby league.
The 25-year-old Hardaker is facing an uncertain future in the game after being dropped by Castleford for last Saturday's Super League Grand Final and discarded by England for the World Cup.
The former Leeds full-back, who was crowned Man of Steel in 2015 and was runner-up this year, failed a drugs test after Castleford's Super 8s fixture with his old club on September 8 and has been provisionally suspended by the Rugby Football League pending the outcome of an investigation by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD).
Speaking at the England media day ahead of the squad's departure for the World Cup in Australia, Betts says neither he nor head coach Wayne Bennett had spoken to Hardaker but admits he will need assistance.
He's always had issues and it'll get to a point where the game can't sustain him any more and that might come sooner than he thought.
Denis Betts on Zak Hardaker
"It's one of those tough things to deal with," said Betts, the Widnes head coach. "You've got to sort out what you can control and I can't control individuals.
"I had this with Rangi Chase too. I've no malice towards these lads because they're just kids who've made mistakes and done something stupid.
"His integrity and his morality needs to get back into kilt because of what he's done and how he's let people down.
"I imagine someone from Rugby League Cares will be in touch and there'll be people helping him go through what he needs to go through.
"He's always had issues and it'll get to a point where the game can't sustain him any more and that might come sooner than he thought.
"He's going to have to make some decisions about lifestyle and what he does next."
'It's a society issue'
Hardaker became the third Super League player to be suspended following drugs offences in the last three months after Rangi Chase (Widnes) and Adam Walker (Wakefield) both tested positive for cocaine, but Betts says the problem is not confined to rugby league.
"This is not a rugby league issue, it's a society issue," he said. "Society in general has got some things to deal with.
"This is just a young man who has background issues with where he grew up, anger issues he's dealt with and he's got money in his pocket.
"It's really hard for me to comprehend because it's something I've not been involved with. I can't understand what would make him do what he did. I can't see what he was even thinking.
"There's support everywhere in rugby league. There are some things that could be done better but we're as far advanced as any other professional sport with our mental health issues, drugs and gambling. We're really good."
According to the UKAD website, of 17 athletes who have served a ban for the stimulant found in cocaine since UKAD was formed in 2011, five were in rugby union, five in football and two in rugby league (the Hardaker, Chase and Walker cases have yet to be dealt with) with the rest representing boxing, motorsport, rowing and darts.