Emry Pere of the Maori All Stars gestures during a Maori Men's All Star training session at Jack Manski Oval on February 17, 2021 in Townsville, Australia | Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

An Australian rugby league captain who was sent off last weekend for using a homophobic slur on the field says he is “truly sorry” and has vowed to learn from the experience.

Emry Pere was captaining the Western Clydesdales in a Queensland Cup clash against his former club the Burleigh Bears when the match referee showed him a straight red card in the 10th minute.

The game was being live streamed and the 25-year-old Pere, who previously played for the North Queensland Cowboys in the NRL, could be heard saying “f***ing f****t,” according to the Townsville Bulletin.

Referee Jack Ebert took immediate action, telling Pere: “The words that I heard that you said, unacceptable and cannot be used on a football field.

“Emry, you’re gone. It’s a homophobic slur, Emry, and you cannot say that on a football field.”

The Clydesdales went on to lose the match 56-18 and are rock bottom of the table with just one win and 12 defeats from 13 games played. Pere accepted an early guilty plea for his conduct and has been banned for two matches.

The Toowoomba-based club’s CEO Shane Sullivan insisted to News Corp afterwards that it was “a very out-of-character mistake” and that Pere was “remorseful” and “inconsolable” in the locker room.

Attempting to explain why the New Zealand-born prop used homophobic language, Sullivan said: “He certainly didn’t mean it. There was a lot of banter between his ex-teammates and himself and he got pushed over and it slipped out.”

Incidents of the ‘f****t’ word in men’s team sports in Australia and New Zealand continue to be relatively common.

Two years ago, the NZ Warriors’ Fiji international winger Marcelo Montoya received a four-game suspension for yelling the word at an opponent, while in Aussie rules this season, two AFL players — Port Adelaide’s Jeremy Finlayson and Gold Coast Suns’ Wil Powell — have copped three and five-game bans after being caught using the slur.

A recently published academic report titled ‘Free to Exist’ looked at the experiences of LGBTQ youth in Australian sport and found 40% of the 16- to 25-year-olds surveyed had experienced discrimination, “mostly through verbal vilification.”

Pere issued his own statement Wednesday, saying: “I deeply regret the hurt and disappointment I have caused to my teammates, supporters, and the broader community.”

He continued: “I am committed to learning from this experience and doing everything I can to promote respect and inclusion in our sport.”

The previous day, CEO Sullivan had said in a Clydesdales statement that Pere was an “exemplary leader” and the club would be standing by him.

“Emry has already started working with our club through our Education and Wellbeing Manager and Football department staff to ensure that he grows from this, helping promote a culture of respect and inclusion in rugby league,” read the statement.

It continued: “The Western Clydesdales are committed to upholding the values of respect, inclusion, and sportsmanship.

“We do not condone the use of homophobic slurs or any form of discriminatory language. We believe that this incident, while regrettable, will serve as a powerful reminder to all of us about the importance of always maintaining these values.”