The recent news that Castleford Tigers had sacked full-back Zak Hardaker for failing a drugs test way back in September 2017 has divided the Tigers' faithful. Some labelled the decision as "madness" - especially as the outcome of the UK Anti-Doping case has not yet been revealed - whilst others praised the club for axing a player that has tainted the sport's reputation once more. Whichever opinion a Castleford fan is of, the whole community now needs to rally behind those players that are still left wearing the shirt.

Weird timing

Although there have been many advocating Castleford's decision, there have been very few that have agreed with the club's timing of it.

Why now - nearly six months after the alleged test was failed by Hardaker? If the club were going to sack him, surely the ideal time would have been just after the Grand Final, which would have enabled Daryl Powell to hunt for a new full-back in the off-season, rather than waiting for the season to begin.

Perhaps the Tigers have got wind of the UKAD decision and acted now instead of keeping a player on lucrative wages to see out a potentially lengthy ban. But, the club only released the statement on Hardaker's sacking after coach Powell had revealed that the full-back would no longer be at the club in an interview. The speculation about the turmoil at the club could therefore ring true; was Powell given permission to release this news before the club did or had he been enraged by the sacking and wanted to get the news out there?

Effect so far

It is quite obvious that the cloud hanging over the Castleford club - a problem that relates back to the ill-fated Grand Final in October - is largely down to the issue of Zak Hardaker. The players seem subdued, even the previously vociferous fans have had the stuffing knocked out of them, but for good reason. Rumours are flying here, there and everywhere regarding the impact that the whole facade has had on the Tigers' setup behind-the-scenes and this is all down to one man - Hardaker.

One man transformed the club from top-four hopers into silverware contenders, but the same player has also sown the seeds of conflict that Castleford fans thought had been buried in the past.

Time to move on

Zak Hardaker gave Castleford fans some moments of sheer magic in 2017, but so did others that have left in controversial circumstances in the past.

Rangi Chase, Daryl Clark, Justin Carney and Denny Solomona were - and are - fantastic players and when the quartet all departed in their respective years, Castleford fans - and most of the Rugby League fraternity - were convinced that they were irreplaceable and that Castleford would struggle as a result. Yet, the Tigers moved on, and, arguably to better and greater things. And, whilst Solomona is enjoying a successful career in Rugby Union, the remaining trio have hardly lit up Super League - or even the Championship - after departing the club.

Hardaker may well be a class above Chase, Clark, Carney and Solomona, but his talent on the field has been, and is, severely blighted by his lack of class off it; Castleford - a club that prides itself on the togetherness in the stands and on the field - can do without this trouble.

Even if Hardaker - as rumoured - ends up at Wigan and helps guide the Warriors to silverware, Castleford have acted with the highest morals and must be commended for doing so. The only trouble is, morals do not win trophies. Have the Tigers sacrificed reputation over winning silverware?

What's done is done and whilst many Castleford fans are still in uproar over the decision, there is no way back for Hardaker in a Tigers' shirt. For the sake of their season, the Castleford club and fans must rid themselves of any ill-feeling and get behind those boys that actually do respect the Castleford shirt.