Wigan Warriors prop Ben Flower has apologised after getting sent off for punching St Helens’ Lance Hohaia in Saturday’s Super League Grand Final.
Flower was shown a red card just two minutes into the game when he landed two punches on Hohaia, first knocking his opponent to the floor then again when he was on the ground.
It meant the 26-year-old became the first player ever to be sent off in a Grand Final, with Hohaia having to be substituted as Saints went on to win 14-6 at Old Trafford.
“I firstly offer my apologies to Lance. I have full respect for him, and have never gone onto a rugby field to injure a fellow player,” Flower said in a statement on Wigan’s official website.
“I’d also like to say sorry to my team-mates, our fans and the Wigan Club. I know I’ve let them down like never before and accept I’ll have to live with this for the rest of my career.
“Finally, I’m sorry to the sport of Rugby League. It was a big night and I know I’ve taken the attention away from what was a special event.”
Hohaia couldn’t return to the field because of concussion and will undergo scans this week.
“I wanted to go back on but the doctor wouldn’t allow that to happen,” said Hohaia. “My health comes before anything else.
“I don’t remember the incident. People have told me what happened, I guess I was hit around the head somewhere. Sometimes these things happen in the game.
“I don’t hold any grudges against Ben. In the heat of the moment, people do some things they regret. I’ve done some silly things on the field myself.
“He’s probably disappointed in himself for not being able to play a part in the game as well.”
Meanwhile, Wigan head coach Shaun Wane has dismissed Flower’s actions in the defeat to St Helens as “a rush of blood” and promises to stand by his prop.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Wane said: “It’s a huge error today and we just move on. I make mistakes and he’s made one today.
“It was a rush of blood. It’s the Wigan-Saints derby and everybody is getting whacked off the ball and he made an error.
“He’ll be really upset with what he’s done to his team-mates, but that’s just the character and why we love Ben Flower so much.
“The RFL will deal with the punishment accordingly, and whatever he gets, I’ll stand by him. I’ll make sure he understands that sort of thing can’t happen again.”
The likely punishment, to be decided by an independent tribunal this week, will be a four to eight match suspension.
But, as Rugby League chief executive Nigel Wood revealed to BBC Radio 5 Live: “We have a very extensive disciplinary process and a range of sanctions. The guidelines are there for a purpose but the panel could go outside them if they felt it was necessary.”
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