Hardaker in 'great frame of mind'
Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker will go into Friday's big Super League clash with Wigan "in a great frame of mind" despite the threat of an eight-match ban hanging over him.
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The 22-year-old England international is the subject of an investigation by the Rugby Football League amid allegations that he used a homophobic comment during the Rhinos' 13-12 defeat by St Helens last Friday.
Hardaker served a five-match ban earlier this year after being found guilty of using a homophobic comment towards referee James Child during a match at Warrington on May 30 and, if found guilty of a similar offence, he could be facing a suspension this time of up to eight matches.
That would not only end his season with his title-chasing club, but effectively scupper his chances of playing for England in the Four Nations Series in Australia and New Zealand in October and November.
Leeds coach Brian McDermott insists the issue is not affecting his side's preparations for the trip to the DW Stadium for a match that could determine the runners-up spot and, speaking at the club's training base, praised Hardaker for his handling of the situation.
"I wouldn't call it a distraction, it's an issue we've got to deal with," McDermott said. "We won't let it be a distraction.
"Zak's dealing with it really well. He's a pro and a fierce competitor.
"While it's something he doesn't want to be having to deal with, Zak is determined to get it right on Friday night he's in a great frame of mind because of it."
Leeds stood by Hardaker in June and on Wednesday issued a strongly-worded statement through chief executive Gary Hetherington in which they defended their player, suggested he may be the victim of a witch-hunt and called for an external investigation into the actions of the governing body.
"I stand by everything Gary has said, " McDermott added. "It's disappointing what is happening.
"Zak's getting accused of being something he isn't and his name shouldn't be bandied about at this stage.
"It's guilty until proven innocent, unfortunately. He's not even been investigated yet, never mind been found guilty.
"That happened last time and it's happening again."