Hartley considered gap year after red card
August 30, 2013
Saint to sinner - Dylan Hartley is shown a red card during last season's Premiership finale at Twickenham © PA Photos
Hartley was sent off for verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes during Northampton's 37-17 Premiership final defeat to Leicester in May and his subsequent ban dashed his British & Irish Lions hopes having previously been selected to tour Down Under this summer.
The hooker was found guilty of calling Barnes "a f****** cheat" although the player insists it was aimed at his Leicester rival Tom Youngs and not the official. "Walking towards the touchline after being sent off was the worst moment of my career. Everything was in slow motion," he told The Independent. "I was more upset about the team and the fact that we went on to lose the final," he said. "Why? Because that affected people other than me.
"The Lions thing affected me alone. I went on holiday straight away and I couldn't watch the matches because there was no television. I kept in touch on social media and spoke to friends who were playing on the tour, but that was about it. Funnily enough, I was sent all my Lions kit the other day. I don't know what to do with it. Maybe I'll auction it for charity."
In the face of widespread criticism of his outburst, Hartley seriously considered taking an extended break from the game. "At one point I contemplated a bit of a gap year, taking some time out because of the mental strain," he told The Times. But after conversations with Saints boss Jim Mallinder and England head coach Stuart Lancaster he opted to set about restoring his reputation. "I'm thankful I made the right decision to stay playing," he said.
Hartley is no stranger to disciplinary chiefs having also served suspensions for biting, gouging and punching offences but the 27-year-old insists he does not have a serious anger management issue. "I don't need a sports psychologist, but my approach to dealing with referees has to change," he told PA Sport.
"I can understand how the incident was interpreted. I did say what I said, but I stand by what I said in that I know who I was talking to or about. I've heard much worse in the front row. In terms of how it was interpreted I have to look at that and understand how it got to that point."
Hartley has since retained the Saints captaincy for the forthcoming season but was prepared to give up the honour having let his side down. "I was open to stepping down but Jim [Mallinder] talked me out of it," the player told The Independent. "I was aware that from the outside, people might want to see a change in the captaincy. Also, with our new signings and our changes in the coaching team, I thought we should start afresh. But the decision was made for me. Jim and I spoke over a few coffees and he said: 'We want you to do it. I back you, the board backs you and the lads back you'."
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