Leeds Rhinos and England star Zak Hardaker promises to learn from his mistakes as he is handed five-match ban for homophobically abusing a referee

Hardaker has found himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons for the second time in seven months following World Cup axe last year and has apologised for his latest remarks

Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker has vowed to mend his reputation for the second time in seven months after being found guilty of homophobically abusing a referee.

An independent Rugby Football League tribunal imposed a five-match suspension on the 22-year-old England international for making the offensive comments during the Rhinos' 24-6 Super League defeat at Warrington 12 days ago.

Hardaker, who last week issued a public apology, admitted the offence when he appeared in front of the tribunal but claimed his remarks were aimed at Warrington captain Michael Monaghan rather than referee James Child and that he was unaware of their connotations.

The tribunal accepted the player is not homophobic but were satisfied that the remarks were made to the match official.

Hardaker was also fined £300 but the punishment could have been worse. The grade E charge he faced carries a ban of between four and eight matches.

An RFL spokesman said: "In handing down a five-match ban and £300 fine, the tribunal took into consideration the player's contrition, his guilty plea and evidence that he is undertaking voluntary work within the LGBT community."

Hardaker hit the headlines last November when he was thrown out of England's World Cup squad for a breach of discipline and was subsequently given a £2,500 fine and a warning by his club.

The player responded with a series of impressive displays that earned him a recall to the England squad, although it is not known whether his suspension will affect his appearance at a mid-season training get-together in Loughborough this weekend.

Hardaker, who will start his suspension when Leeds host Huddersfield in a Super League game at Headingley on Thursday night, pledged to learn from his latest mistake.

"Firstly, I would like to once again say sorry for any offence my comments during the Warrington game have caused," he said in a statement posted on the club website.

"I maintain that I did not say the remark to referee James Child, however I know that I made a mistake and it does not matter who I directed the comment at, as it still causes offence to those who saw or heard it.

"I will accept the findings of the disciplinary panel and will look to put this experience to good use in terms of my professional and personal development.

"I would also like to thank all those who have shown faith in me and offered to help me, in particular Martin Owens from the Canalsiders amateur club, and hopefully the issues raised in this case will make everyone, players, officials and supporters alike more aware of the harm their words can cause."

PA

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there