Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan has dismissed calls for forward Ben Flower to be sacked following his Super League Grand Final attack on St Helens’ Lance Hohaia.
Flower has been banned for six months by the Rugby Football League for punching a prone and motionless Hohaia after just two minutes of Saturday’s showpiece at Old Trafford.
The incident has become a national talking point and the severity of the punishment – which is the longest ban in Super League history – a subject of debate.
Critics such as former Wales international Jonathan Davies have called for Flower to receive a year-long ban, with others even suggesting Wigan should take a tough stand and dismiss the 26-year-old.
Lenagan however, has assured the prop he has a future at the DW Stadium.
“Ben Flower made a mistake, and I say very clearly, ‘Let any one of us who has not made a mistake stand forward’,” Lenagan said. “I have made mistakes, players make mistakes.
“This is not drug-taking, it is in a super-charged, emotional environment behaving irresponsibly. That is no reason to sack a player.
“That is a reason to discipline him, a reason to make sure that he suffers from it – because we as a club have suffered as well, and quite rightly so, because we are responsible for our players – but there is no question of us sacking Ben Flower.”
Flower has been subjected to death threats on Twitter since the incident and Greater Manchester Police are investigating.
A series of abusive remarks were posted on one account on Tuesday directed to Flower, with some comments suggesting the player “deserves to be shot” and that his “last days are approaching”.
Lenagan said: “I think death threats are crazy in the circumstances, when the victim himself is making clear his position. You always get extremists, particularly associated with sport.”
Hohaia has said he holds no ill feeling towards Flower.
Flower is a Wales international but had already made himself unavailable for the forthcoming European Championship because he is due to be best man at the wedding of Gil Dudson, a team-mate for club and country.
Wales coach John Kear, however, says he will have no hesitation about picking Flower for representative duty in the future.
“Without a shadow of a doubt. People deserve another chance,” Kear said. “He has done wrong but in society generally we can’t be an unforgiving society, and we as a game in rugby league can’t be an unforgiving game.
“As the Wales head coach, next year, when he has served his ban, I would be more than happy to welcome him back into the national side.”