England international Zak Hardaker will not be charged over allegations that he made a homophobic comment in a recent Super League match.
The 22-year-old Leeds full-back served a five-match ban in the summer after being found guilty of homophobic abuse of referee James Child and was investigated over claims that he made similar comments aimed towards St Helens forward Mark Flanagan last month.
However, in a statement, the Rugby Football League said: “The RFL can confirm that no further action will be taken following an investigation into an incident in the First Utility Super League fixture, Leeds Rhinos v St Helens played on Friday August 29.
“Details of the investigation were presented to the RFL Match Review Panel which concluded that there was insufficient evidence for charges to be brought.”
The announcement came just 24 hours after Hardaker accused the RFL of dragging its heels on the matter and claimed the uncertainty was starting to adversely affect his family. Speaking about the episode for the first time after being unveiled in the 2014 Super League Dream Team, Hardaker said: “I would rather they just come out and say ‘come to Red Hall, we’ve got this, this and this’, and try and charge me or say they haven’t got enough evidence because it’s hanging over me, it’s hanging over the club and, most importantly, it’s hanging over my family which p***** me off more than anything.”
Had Hardaker been charged and found guilty of the offence for a second time, he could have been given as much as an eight-match ban, which would not only have ruled him out of Leeds’ bid to reach the Grand Final but scuppered his chances of playing for England in the end-of-season Four Nations campaign.
Now he is clear to line up for the Rhinos in Saturday’s elimination play-off tie against Catalan Dragons at Headingley and secure his place in England’s final squad for the trip to Australia and New Zealand. Hardaker was thrown out of England’s World Cup squad during the tournament last November for a breach of discipline and subsequently fined £2,500 by his club and warned over his future conduct. He earned widespread praise for the way he responded to the setback, producing a series of impressive displays for his club to earn a place in 34-strong England training squad in June.