Leeds fullback Zak Hardaker has issued a public apology for making homophobic comments during last Friday’s Super League match at Warrington.
The 22-year-old England international is currently being investigated by the Rugby Football League and looks certain to be charged with breaching their Respect policy and bringing the game into disrepute.
In the meantime, Hardaker broke his silence by apologising for his remarks, which he says were aimed at Warrington Australian captain Michael Monaghan rather than referee James Child, which appeared to be the case.
It is the second time in seven months that Hardaker has been forced to issue a public apology. In November he was thrown out of England’s World Cup camp for a breach of discipline and fined STG2,500 ($A4,500) by his club for breaking their code of conduct.
The player’s statement said: “Because of the RFL’s investigation, this is the first opportunity I have had to speak about the incident in last week’s game at Warrington.
“In the heat of the game, I have used an offensive term and I can honestly say I was deeply saddened when I found out after the game how my comment had been perceived.
“I would especially like to apologise to Michael Monaghan, who my comments were aimed at.
“During the investigation, I was made aware that the referee on the night, James Child, also heard my comment and was offended by it. I would like to unreservedly apologise to him for that and I can assure him that no offence was intended toward him.”
Hardaker was this week included in England coach Steve McNamara’s 34-strong squad for a mid-season training camp after expressing his remorse for last November’s incident and he has been named in the Rhinos squad for Friday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final against Leigh.
Leeds coach Brian McDermott said: “Zak has made a mistake. I am confident this was a genuine error of judgement and that he understands the offence his comment has caused.
“As a club we must help our players to understand the level of scrutiny required to make sure an incident like this does not happen again.”