SAINTS chairman Eamonn McManus says his club stand “firmly at the side of Wigan” after Warriors prop Ben Flower received a six-month ban for his punch on Lance Hohaia.
The Welsh international was sent off after just two minutes on Saturday and was charged with a Grade F offence on Monday.
The ban will mean Flower is excluded from all competitions until April 14, 2015, missing 13 games in total
Earlier on Tuesday, Hohaia pleaded guilty for his charge of a Grade B offence for striking Flower with his arm beforehand.
McManus welcomed the way the situation had been dealt with and urged the sport to welcome the Warriors prop back into the game following his ban and for others to not judge the sport on this one incident.
He said: “Whilst serving his ban it is critical that Ben is now provided all due personal and professional support.
“His rehabilitation is now paramount. During the period of his ban he will be no more than a 25-year-old boy who will be extremely vulnerable emotionally.
“We must assist him in any way that we can and accept him back into the sport. There is a person behind the player, and I am reliably informed by all that it is a good one. He must know that from all. Lance Hohaia certainly feels that way towards him also.
“The sport of Rugby League should not be judged by this event, but by how it deals with it.
“Ian Lenagan is a strong Chairman of a great club and I know that he will look beyond mere effect and more at cause. If anything is identified and needs to be dealt with then he will. St Helens stand firmly at the side of Wigan at this time.
“Separately, the RFL will take its duties and obligations extremely seriously. Again, we must look beyond the offence itself and identify and deal with any surrounding contributory factors. Certainly, the officiating and disciplinary structures, systems and processes need to be scrutinised, and quickly. Most agree that there has been an increasing lack of consistency in the interpretation and application of the rules of the game, and in its disciplinary sanctions when such rules are deemed to have been broken.
“Real and rapid introspection is critical and trust needs to be unequivocal. Coaches and players must have much more clarity and consistency in the application of the rules and in their sanctions so as not to tempt participants to exploit unclear boundaries nor to risk the unpredictability of sanctions.
“This matter gives the sport of Rugby League the opportunity to positively differentiate itself yet again by dealing with a high profile problem in an efficient, transparent, pragmatic and effective manner. I am confident that it will.”
Wigan also released a statement saying: “Wigan Warriors would like to go on record in saying that the RFL disciplinary committee handled a very difficult situation with professionalism and integrity. We fully support their assessment of Saturday night’s incident involving our player, Ben Flower. We will be making no appeal.
“We would like to apologise to Lance Hohaia and his family and to the St Helens club and fans. St Helens win on Saturday has been overshadowed by the incident and that is wrong. The Grand Final was an incredible game and St Helens were worthy winners.
“We hope our respect and healthy rivalry can remain intact and that both clubs will return soon to Old Trafford to showcase properly the exciting splendours of Rugby League as well as its toughness.
“Ben has issued an apology and is very regretful and full of remorse for his actions.
“We will work hard to try repair any damage caused to the reputation of Rugby League.”