Rugby League: Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker banned for homophobic abuse
Last Updated: 11/06/14 12:19am
Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker has been banned for five games after being found guilty of homophobic abuse.
A Rugby Football League disciplinary committee banned Hardaker following an investigation into comments the 22-year-old England international made during the Rhinos' 24-6 defeat at Warrington.
Hardaker had issued an apology where he admitted using inappropriate language but claimed his comments were aimed at Warrington captain Michael Monaghan, rather than referee James Child.
The Leeds player was facing a grade E offence of "using verbal abuse based on race, colour, religion, gender, sexual preference, national or ethnic origin", which carried a ban of between four and eight matches.
Hardaker, who was thrown out of England's World Cup squad after a breach of discipline last November, has missed just one match for his club in the last 14 months.
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.
"Thankyou everyone for ur support, 5 games it is," he tweeted. "You live and learn and that's life, so I'll just make sure I come out better for it."
Leeds colleague and former England captain Jamie Peacock has also been found guilty of punching Leigh forward Matt Sarsfield but has escaped a ban.
Peacock was sin-binned after coming to blows with Sarsfield during the Rhinos' 25-12 Challenge Cup quarter-final win over the Centurions.
Peacock admitted the offence when he appeared in front a Rugby Football League disciplinary panel, who took into consideration "significant provocation" as well as his previous exemplary record.
The veteran prop was fined £300 for the grade B offence and will be free to play against Huddersfield in Thursday's Super League match at Headingley.
Meanwhile, Hull KR forward Michael Weyman won his appeal against a two-match ban imposed after he was found guilty of using foul or abusive language to a referee.
Weyman argued that his comments, made during his side's 54-12 defeat at Castleford nine days ago, were directed at team-mate Graeme Horne rather than the match official.
Bradford forward Jay Pitts will miss his first game for the Bulls after accepting a one-match ban for a dangerous throw on Warrington's Anthony England during his side's 46-10 Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat.