Wigan Warriors have confirmed the signing of Zak Hardaker on a four-year contract.
The fullback has been heavily linked with a move to the Warriors for months, and will now join the club once his 14-month drugs suspension comes to an end on November 8th.
The 26-year-old, whose season ended in controversy after being suspended for the Grand Final due to a positive test, was a free agent after being sacked by Castleford.
Before that, he had played a hugely influential role in their League Leaders’ Shield success, earning selection in the Super League Dream Team and being nominated for Man of Steel.
He has now agreed to sign for Wigan on a long-term deal, which will see him replace Sam Tomkins.
Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan said: “This wasn’t a decision that we made lightly. We recognise the serious nature of this incident and our choice in offering this opportunity should not be seen as condoning his actions in any way.
“We had extensive conversations with Zak and his family before making our offer. We encountered a man who, after 8 months of reflection, openly admits that he has made a series of significantly poor decisions over the past few years. Crucially, we also saw someone who recognises that this is the final opportunity to focus on delivering the achievements his talent should generate.
“I have had the experiences in business and sport of offering contrite individuals the final opportunity and environment to learn from their mistakes with some notable successes and occasional failures. Wigan are giving Zak Hardaker that platform to repay the faith his family have shown him. My team at Wigan will manage, mentor and test him through this period of rehabilitation and development and, hopefully, guide him back to being one of the best players in Super League.”
Head Coach Shaun Wane commented: “Zak is an outstanding competitor and a hugely talented individual who will understand the culture at our Club. He is the opposition name who, when we preview his team, is always the main danger. Now he is one on our team and that is pleasing for everyone involved.
“His early return to training will assist his transition back into the sport but he will not be not be available to play in the 2018 Super League season.”