“It made it virtually impossible” – Daryl Powell recalls the “most difficult” management situation of his entire coaching career

Castleford had brushed aside every challenger in 2017 before they got to the Super League Grand Final.

But, in the week leading up to the showpiece event, the Tigers were rocked by news that star fullback Zak Hardaker had failed a drugs test.

That, according to Daryl Powell on the Golden Point Podcast on Sky Sports, was the toughest thing he’s had to go through as a coach.

“The day before the team run we got to know – the management came in to see me and Steve Gill (Castleford’s CEO at the time) came and said that Zak has failed a drugs test.

“Zak actually asked to talk to me, but I was already on my way to the meeting and getting ready for the final.

“That was tough, to get that message; I spoke to Zak and told him and then I had to speak to every player to say this had happened and this is what we’re going to do.

“We only had one training session before a Grand Final, so that was the most difficult management situation I’ve ever faced, leading into a big game.

“I thought Leeds were outstanding on the night, but who knows what would have happened had Zak played, but it certainly made it difficult for us mentally as well as having to move around players positionally.”

Powell believe that he got the communication with the players spot on in the aftermath.

“I think the communication process I handled well; I rang every player up personally because I didn’t want them to get it from anywhere else.

“We held ourselves with dignity the whole way through and then the Grand Final was as tough a night as I’ve had as a coach.”

The Castleford boss – who will be leaving for Warrington at the end of this season – said he would not have done anything differently.

“I don’t know what you could do differently to be honest, the communication was so late.

“It was just an awkward situation to deal with – we didn’t have the personnel to replace him effectively and it just ended up being such a tough one.

“I wouldn’t have done anything differently, it made it virtually impossible.

“I just think he’d been such a pivotal player for us – you’re talking about a fullback here not a front-rower who do a fantastic but simple job.

“To lose that player and cause the reshuffle was a significant issue.”

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