Leeds Rhinos player Zak Hardaker, 22 was thought to have called referee James Child a “f*cking fag”, during the team’s match against Warrington in May.
The Rugby Football League’s match-review panel charged him with a grade E offence of “using verbal abuse based on race, colour, religion, gender, sexual preference, national or ethnic origin”, he was banned for five games and given a £300 fine. He apologised after the incident.
Hardaker this week met up with and trained alongside Manchester Canalsiders’ LGBT team, and took a tour of Manchester’s gay village.
“I try to enjoy myself and live life to the full… Along the way you learn new things and this is one of the lessons I have learned. The Canalsiders have been terrific and at least some good has come out of what happened,” he told the Daily Mirror.
“They recognised it was just a heat of the moment comment and I am really thankful for their support. I think it has helped to raise certain issues, including the profile of the club, so that’s great. I have learned what you can and can’t say and how it affects different people.
“These five weeks out have felt like an eternity. But it’s given me time to dwell on things and I am sure I am a better person now.”
He will make a comeback on Thursday night in a match against Castleford.