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

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

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

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific