LEEDS RHINOS full-back Zak Hardaker has been banned for five matches after being found guilty of homophobic abuse.
But prop Jamie Peacock will be available for Thursday’s visit of Huddersfield Giants, despite admitting punching in last Friday’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup win over Leigh Centurions.
Hardaker’s suspension begins immediately and covers the Huddersfield game, plus fixtures against Widnes Vikings, Catalan Dragons, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Hull KR.
The RFL launched an investigation after Hardaker was accused of making a homophobic comment during the defeat at Warrington Wolves almost two weeks ago.
Peacock was charged with Grade B striking - which normally results in a ban of one or two games - following his sin-binning in last Friday’s Cup tie.
The former England captain pleaded guilty and was fined £300, but escaped without a ban after the committee “took into consideration the significant provocation that led to the incident and the player’s previous exemplary disciplinary record”.
Following his RFL Disciplinary, Hardaker said: “Firstly, I would like to once again say sorry for any offence my comments during the Warrington game have caused.
“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 personnel 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.”
Head Coach Brian McDermott added: “We welcome the fact that Zak has recognised his mistake and we will work with him to make sure that this type of incident does not happen again in the future.
“As a club and a game, we have always prided ourselves on how inclusive and welcoming our sport is and this incident, and the reaction to it, shows how seriously we all take this matter. We were pleased that the panel made a particular point of saying that they did not believe that Zak had meant his comment as a homophobic remark and that they considered that Zak was not homophobic.
“The club has worked hard to raise the issue of anti-homophobia in the past and we remain committed to working against all forms of discrimination.