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Spencer Leniu's bombshell confession after new angle of Ezra Mam incident emerged

The Sydney Roosters prop has admitted to using a racial slur towards the Brisbane Broncos player.

Spencer Leniu is facing a long NRL suspension after admitting to racially abusing Ezra Mam and pleading guilty ahead of his judiciary hearing. The Roosters prop was accused by Mam of calling him a 'monkey' during the clash against the Broncos in Las Vegas last Sunday.

On Thursday the scandal took a bombshell twist after Leniu admitted his guilt, but claimed he didn't mean the slur in a racial connotation. "I want to apologise to Ezra and his family for using the word I did and I am sincerely sorry to cause him such distress," he said.

"I've put my hand up and want to take ownership of this. I said the word but I didn't mean it in a racist way. Anyone who knows me knows that's not who I am."

Spencer Leniu and Ezra Mam in the NRL in Las Vegas.
Spencer Leniu has pleased guilty to racially abusing Ezra Mam. Image: AAP/Fox Sports

The Roosters said in a club statement: "Inclusivity of people from all cultures and backgrounds is a key and valued principle of the Sydney Roosters. The Roosters do not tolerate any form of racism and we extend our heartfelt apologies to Ezra, his family and the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community."

Roosters CEO Joe Kelly said: “Spencer has been completely open and honest throughout this process, and we will continue to support him. “We respect the judiciary process. Accordingly, the club will not be making any further comment prior to the hearing."

Brisbane Broncos responds to Spencer Leniu guilty plea

The Broncos later replied with a statement of their own, saying: "The Broncos acknowledge Spencer's apology to Ezra and the importance of taking that step. There is no place for racism in our game or in our society.

"The club respects the NRL judiciary process that is still to play out and we will make no further comment on that. Ezra's wellbeing has been our primary concern from the start. He has been well supported within our club and we will continue to focus on that in the time ahead."

Ezra Mam.
Ezra Mam in action for the Broncos against the Roosters. (Ezra Shaw via Getty Images)

New footage had come to light from front-on camera angle

On Wednesday a new front-on camera angle emerged of the moment Leniu abused Mam during the game. According to reports there is no audio evidence of the alleged slur, and the only footage aired during the game was from a wide angle or with the camera facing towards Leniu's back. But on Wednesday, Channel 9 aired a new angle of the incident from in front of Leniu - showing him tackling Payne Haas before saying something to Mam in the background.

Footage also shows Mam reacting to Leniu's words and chasing him towards the Roosters defensive line, while Billy Walters can also be seen reacting to what Leniu said. Walters, who was in the direct vicinity at dummy-half, had earlier told the Courier Mail he is willing to give evidence at the judiciary if called upon.

According to journalist James Hooper, Haas is also considering whether to testify considering he too was in the area that the incident occurred. The judiciary hearing will still proceed next Tuesday night despite the guilty plea, with Leniu to learn of his punishment.

“I don’t want to get into it too much. We’ve been told not to speak too much because we want the NRL to deal with it properly and not influence it,” Walters said on Wednesday. “But if I’m called upon by the NRL I’ll definitely tell my version of events. We’ve got Ezra’s back no matter what happens.”

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Mam made a formal complaint to referee Adam Gee just two tackles after the incident, and could be heard telling the official "he called me a monkey". Leniu was heard saying "why would I say that?" when informed by Gee of what was being alleged.

Billy Walters and Payne Haas, pictured here when Spencer Leniu said something to Ezra Mam.
Billy Walters and Payne Haas were in the direct vicinity when Spencer Leniu said something to Ezra Mam. Image: Fox Sports
Billy Walters and Ezra Mam, pictured here reacting strongly to what Spencer Leniu said.
Billy Walters and Ezra Mam both reacted strongly to what Spencer Leniu said. Image: Fox Sports

Spencer Leniu case echoes Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh incident

Leniu's admission is somewhat unexpected considering there is no audio of the incident. Whether the testimony of Broncos players would have been considered enough to find Leniu guilty will never be known.

As the Courier Mail pointed out on Wednesday, there is some precedent from another infamous incident that took place in Australia - albeit in a different sport. Andrew Symonds claimed Harbhajan Singh called him a 'monkey' during a cricket Test match between Australia and India at the SCG in 2008.

Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds at the SCG in 2008.
Andrew Symonds claimed Harbhajan Singh called him a monkey in 2008. (Ezra Shaw via Getty Images)

Harbhajan was initially charged by the match referee, but was cleared after an appeal. Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist all gave evidence that they heard the slur, but Harbhajan eventually got off the charge.

According to a senior cricket official speaking to the Courier Mail, it was the lack of physical evidence that saw Harbhajan cleared. “The match referee was happy to make a conviction on the players’ word. The judge wasn't," the official said. "It can go either way but Mam’s witnesses who say they heard the word now become more important given there is no audio. This could be the Symonds case all over.’’

Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden.
Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Matthew Hayden all testified that Harbhajan Singh called Andrew Symonds a monkey. (AFP via Getty Images)

with AAP

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