Rugby league star Zak Hardaker drove home from the pub while double the drink-drive limit to “protect his golf clubs”, a court heard today.
The Wigan Warriors and England full-back abandoned his Ford Fiesta and ran off after police spotted him speeding.
READ: Prisoner in Wakefield jail used ‘transgender persona’ to rape vulnerable women
The 27-year-old, who had been drinking gin and beers, then told lies to officers when they went to his home in Pontefract, claiming he had not been the driver of the vehicle.
He pleaded guilty to drink driving at Leeds Magistrates Court today.
Joanne McGarrey, prosecuting, said police officers followed Hardaker as he was speeding in his Ford Fiesta on Knottingley Road, Pontefract, shortly after midnight on September 26 this year.
The prosecutor said the vehicle made a sharp left turn into a cul-de-sac and two men got out of the car and ran off.
The officers chased the two men but the pair got away.
Miss McGarrey said police went to the address that the vehicle was registered but were told Hardaker no longer lived there and were given his new address.
The officers went to the property and spoke to Hardaker.
READ: Body found at Wakefield nature reserve
The defendant told the officers that his car must have been stolen.
Hardaker was taken to a police station where a breath test showed he was more than double the drink-drive limit.
Miss McGarrey said Hardaker admitted to being the driver when he was interviewed about the offence.
He told officers he had been drinking at a friend’s house before going to the pub.
Hardaker told police he had driven away and run off as he had panicked.
The defendant said he had drunk two gins and four or five pints before getting into his car.
The court heard Hardaker, of Featherstone Lane, Pontefract, has no previous convictions.
Nicholas Hammond, mitigating, described Hardaker as a “professional sportsman”.
Mr Hammond said it was “not certain” whether his contract will continue with his employer as a result of the conviction.
He added: “He takes his responsibilities as a sportsman very seriously.
“This could have potentially devastating consequences on his employment.”
READ: 150-year-old Wakefield firm goes into administration
The lawyer said Hardaker had made a “grave error of judgement” in deciding to drive.
Mr Hammond said his client had decided to drive the short distance home after realising he had left his golf clubs in his car.
He said: “He is not someone who ordinarily behaves in this regard.”
The court heard Hardaker helped charities including the Prince of Wales Hospice in Pontefract.
Hardaker was fined £1,700 and banned from driving for 20 months.
The ban will be reduced to 15 months if he completes a drink-driving rehabilitation course.
District Judge Paul Currer said: “You decided, for the safety of your golf clubs, that you would put the safety of the public at risk.”
Hardaker, is currently serving a 14-month ban from the sport after testing positive for cocaine.
He signed for Wigan Warriors in May.
Hardaker was suspended by Castleford Tigers in the build-up to the 2017 Super League Grand Final before being dismissed by the club in February this year.