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Zak-Hardaker_3045612Rugby League player Zak Hardaker has said training with LGBT rubgy team The Manchester Canalsiders has helped to make him “a better person”.

Leeds Rhinos full-back Hardaker was given a five-match ban after he used homophobic language during a recent Super League match, calling a referee a “fucking fag”.

Hardaker recently asked to train with the LGBT rugby team The Manchester Canalsiders, and says he has “learned what you can and can’t say” from the experience.

“I try to enjoy myself and live life to the full,” said the 22-year-old player. “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.”

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(Hardaker with The Manchester Canalsiders courtesy of The Mirror)

He continued: “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 added.

As well as playing with the LGBT team, Hardaker also toured Manchester’s Canal Street  to meet members of the gay community – click here to find out more.

Meanwhile, a recent survey has found that 80% of athletes and spectators have encountered homophobia in sport – click here for the full story.