Wigan have been linked with disgraced full-back Zak Hardaker for a good few months, but, the speculation has recently intensified after Castleford sacked the former Leeds man. The Castleford club made a brief statement on the subject, outlining that they would comment further when the UK Anti-Doping case had been concluded. Inevitably, when Shaun Wane was questioned on the matter in Wigan's pre-match press conference prior to the Warrington game, the ex-Wigan prop added further fuel to the fire with his comments. But, in his usual character, Wane also aimed a sly dig at Castleford and even Leeds.

Shaun Wane

The Wigan coach insisted that a deal had not been done but admitted: "Zak is a fantastic player.

"Any player of his calibre that comes up, we’d be interested. I admire him. He’s a natural rugby player and he could play anywhere."

Wane, when asked whether it would set a good example to fans and youngsters to sign a player with his list of misdemeanours, stated: "There will be more to it, what Zak's done.

"But I'm not really interested. I just know Zak's a very good player and we want good people at this club.

"I know Zak as a person, I’ve met him many times and he’s a fantastic character.

"Whether he's made an error I don't know the detail, I would never ask him about that.

"We’re a club what looks after our players, and if Zak has made an error in his life, he needs to deal with that himself.

"At this moment in time he’s not a Wigan player and I’m just looking after the team for tomorrow night."

History with Castleford

Shaun Wane has a bit of history with Castleford regarding past statements - in 2014, for example, Wane claimed Castleford were being disrespectful before the two sides met in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals - and the vitriol between the two sets of fans has grown year-on-year to a point at which one would be forgiven in thinking the two sides are local rivals.

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And, his latest comment that Wigan are a club what looks after their players - which cannot be taken another way than as a dig against the Tigers - has only served to enhance the bitterness between the clubs and their fans.

But, in another sense, his comments are also degrading to Leeds; in Wane's world, only Wigan could have kept Hardaker on the straight and narrow, regardless of how many chances Leeds had given him. By the end of his fourth chance, the Rhinos had simply had enough; they had looked after him for six years, but a club can only take so much. I don't really think Wane and Wigan could have done anything more than what the Leeds club did to try and keep Hardaker focused on Rugby League. At the biggest club in Super League, Hardaker could not behave, why does Wane think that Wigan could have any more joy in subduing Hardaker's off-the-field manner?

Analysing Wane's comments

Wane fuelled the rumour-mongering almost instantly with his comment that the whole story has not been revealed about Hardaker's indiscretion.

Saying that there will be more to the story than presumably just taking drugs will not exactly enamour Wane to the Tigers' faithful. It is almost as if Wane is goading Castleford for being hidden and secretive, in essence, that the Tigers have not revealed all about why Hardaker was dismissed and that the West Yorkshire club's handling of the issue will come out in the wash soon.

Despite a conviction that "there will be more to it", Wane contradicts himself soon after, stating that "I don't know the detail" (of the Hardaker sacking). Well, Mr. Wane, if you don't know the detail, how do you know there will be more to it? Wane's next move is then to try to butter himself up, revealing that he would never ask Hardaker about his indiscretion at the Tigers and that he's "not really interested" in the issue. Why would a head coach - responsible for eyeing up recruits that could improve the side on and off the playing field - not ask a new signing why he was sacked from his old club? Isn't this something that a club would be VERY interested in?

Mr. Wane then goes on to lavish praise on Hardaker as though he's been best buds with him for years. Wane's almost sickly review of Hardaker as a "fantastic character" clearly does not factor in the assault, homophobic abuse and drug-taking that the full-back has been responsible for during his Rugby League career so far. Surely Morgan Escare and Sam Tomkins will not be too happy to hear that a new full-back - whose past is littered with indiscretions - could be on his way to the club.

That the duo could be forced out of the side because of a player that has done the dirty on two Super League sides will not exactly leave the pair bouncing around the dressing room. Though, clearly, after Friday's performance against Warrington, Wane's apparent chase of Hardaker is not exactly surprising; both Escare and Tomkins were far from their best in what proved to be a tough evening for the Warriors.

An attempt at one-upmanship by Wane is as plain as the nose on people's faces. Castleford have lost a superstar and Wane knows it, in fact, he is probably rubbing his hands at the thought of gleefully prising Hardaker away from the club that he has enjoyed a tremendous rivalry with for years. But, please Mr. Wane, if you are going to comment on the situation, do it more professionally and with a touch more class. #RugbyLeague #WiganWarriors #ZakHardaker