In the current Rugby League world, rumours and speculation fly around like a kit of hungry pigeons. But, whilst most of it can be attributed as "fake news" - in the words of marmite President Donald Trump - some of the rumours inevitably end up true. After all, there's no smoke without fire, and, burning deep within the underbelly of Castleford fans at the minute is the facade concerning Zak Hardaker. Tigers' fans have been split - ever since full-back Hardaker was dropped from the Castleford side for the Grand Final in October last year - on whether he should see out his contract at the club, or, whether the club should get rid.

Castleford in a mess

Well now, as reported by The Sun's Rugby League and Football reporter Gary Carter, Hardaker is apparently on his way to Wigan - despite him looking at a two-year ban for taking drugs.

But where does that leave Castleford? The Tigers currently have a squad missing the vital spark that Hardaker had given it in 2017. As such, it could well be a concerning time for a club that, this time last year, was on the verge of something special and historic.

And, with increasing speculation that the Hardaker issue has even caused tension behind the scenes at the Tigers, it is quite astounding to witness the problems that stem from just one player.

Wigan chasing Hardaker

If Carter is correct, what kind of message does this send out to young kids trying to make their way in the game? Basically, as long as you are good enough, you can do what you want and still get numerous chances. Cats supposedly have nine lives and whilst Hardaker is not quite up to his ninth chance yet, he has continuously let down his employers throughout his career.

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Leeds stuck by the full-back on several occasions - the beating up of a student and homophobic abuse the most shocking of his misdemeanours. The Rhinos even had the decency to send Hardaker on an anger management course to try to help him overcome his issues.

Yet, when Leeds felt they could do no more and with Hardaker's performances on the field dropping in quality, the full-back was first given an opportunity in the NRL with Penrith Panthers and, secondly, with the Castleford Tigers, coached by Hardaker's mentor as a youngster, Daryl Powell. In interviews, Hardaker appeared grateful, almost sincere, to be given another chance in Rugby League.

The spiel about him being "a changed man" fooled the Castleford club and the majority of their fans - me included. With the Tigers taking Super League by storm - a lot of which was down to Hardaker himself - the Castleford faithful couldn't believe their luck. A four-and-a-half year deal exacerbated this utopian feeling in June 2017; the club seemingly had the nucleus of an exciting squad for a long time to come.

Another chance bites the dust

Yet, even with Zak arguably playing some of the best rugby of his career in a title-chasing team, he again had to spoil it for himself. But, in taking drugs and ruining the Tigers' preparations for the most important game in their history, Hardaker had not only ruined his chances to appear in both the Grand Final and the World Cup, he had also stuck two fingers up at his club and his fans whom now idolised the once-hated flat capper. Castleford had taken a punt on Zak - even by taking him on loan from the Rhinos in the first place. Powell and the Tigers' boardroom were even willing to part with £150,000 to take Hardaker permanently - a fee which Castleford have never got close to paying before for a player.

Hardaker does not care about anyone but himself. He may have personal issues, he may have depression, which has often been rumoured too. However, depression does not usually come in the form of assaulting students, homophobia and taking cocaine. Leeds and Castleford had and have sacrificed a lot in an attempt to keep Zak on the straight and narrow. And, now Wigan are apparently dipping their toe into the Hardaker market, with some sources claiming that they are willing to hand him a five-year deal - a remarkable contract for a drugs cheat.

"Family game?"

Trying to explain to a young Tigers' fan why Hardaker will no longer be at the club will take some honesty - or good story telling if the parents don't want to tell the truth. Previously, Wigan stuck by Gareth Hock and gave him a second chance when he too delved into the drug world and good on them for doing so as not many clubs would have. But, that Wigan would give Hardaker yet another chance after witnessing the destruction he has left in his wake at Leeds and Castleford just because of his ability on the field makes a mockery of the so-called "family game". It would surely be only a matter of time before Wigan were stung also.