ARCH rivals Wigan and St Helens put on a united front last night, both expressing their satisfaction with the six-month ban handed out to Ben Flower for his reckless act of indiscipline that marred Saturday’s Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford.
The Rugby Football League’s disciplinary tribunal took just half an hour to come up with the punishment after Flower admitted the grade F offence.
Flower’s punishment amounts to a 13-game ban, comprising two pre-season trials, Wigan’s World Club Challenge meeting with Brisbane Broncos on February 21 and the first 10 games of the 2015 Super League season.
It is the second heaviest ban of the Super League era. Terry Newton, the late former Great Britain hooker, was suspended for 10 matches for knocking out Lee Gilmour and breaking the cheekbone of Sean Long while playing for Wigan against St Helens in 2005, but the ban was extended to seven months when his appeal was rejected.
“I’m not surprised,” St Helens captain Paul Wellens said when asked about the length of sentence.
“It was a pretty unsavoury incident. He’s come out and said it himself that he’s very disappointed with his actions.
“It’s quite clear the RFL has sent a message (saying) that type of behaviour won’t be tolerated.”
Wigan rugby general manager Kris Radlinski, who accompanied Flower to the hearing at the RFL’s headquarters in Leeds, said there would be no appeal.
St Helens dropped their veiled threat to pursue legal action and Wellens offered Flower an olive branch by saying he would be welcomed back into the game at the end of his ban.
“Rugby league people in general are quite forgiving,” Wellens said. “There’ll be a lot of scrutiny around him when he returns as a player.
“But within rugby league there’s been incidents in the past and people have come back. He’ll be treated as normal.
“He’ll go away and serve his punishment and then once he’s done that I think he should be allowed back in and straight back into the Wigan squad as per normal.”
Flower stunned the 70,000 crowd and millions watching on television when he landed a right hook on St Helens stand-off Lance Hohaia while he was motionless on the ground just two minutes into the Grand Final.
The Wales international had moments earlier reacted to an off-the-ball forearm strike from Hohaia by knocking him to the ground.
Hohaia last night accepted a one-match ban after being charged with a grade B offence of striking which normally carries a suspension of one or two matches. Because of his previous record, the St Helens half-back was entitled to submit an early-guilty plea to receive the smallest sanction and avoid a hearing.
Flower had made a public apology on Sunday for his actions and he cast a forlorn figure as he stood next to Radlinksi outside Red Hall as the club statement was read out.
It said: “We fully support their (the RFL’s) assessment of Saturday night’s incident ... we will be making no appeal.
“Ben has issued an apology and is very regretful and full of remorse for his actions. We will work hard to try to repair any damage caused to the reputation of rugby league.”
St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus added: “These matters have to be dealt with by the appropriate body within the game and it has been.”