Whitehaven forward Taani Lavulavu has quit the club after being targeted for personal abuse by a section of the club’s fans.
The ex-Workington prop will return home to New Zealand just a few months into a two-year deal following offensive comments on websites and from the stands.
He has not played for Whitehaven since being sent off in last month’s Challenge Cup defeat at Gateshead.
He told the local press: “As a rugby league player, I am, like all others, prepared to take criticism but to be personally abused by a vocal few, labelled a ‘thug’ and called names like ‘bog brush’ and ‘lavatory’ on website forums, all of which was being read by my family back home, led to me not being able to concentrate on the job in hand.
“I kept my wife and children away from the games as I did not want them hearing what was being said and without them there, there was really no point in carrying on.
“The personal abuse I was subjected to during the warm-up at Gateshead was really the final straw and I realised no matter what I did nothing would change.
“After discussing the situation with family and friends we made the decision to return home.
“I would like to thank the board of directors for their support and understanding, and my team-mates from both Haven and Town have been fantastic. I would also like to thank the coaching staff at Haven who have been extremely supportive.
“It’s important that people know that the majority of fans at both clubs are very good people and we have made some life-long friends here in Cumbria. I wish Haven all the best for the season and will follow the results and give my support from home.”
Lavulavu was brought to the club in the close season by Ged Stokes, who previously coached the Kiwi at rivals Workington.
John Flanagan, administrator of fan forum Havenfans.co.uk, said: “It is disappointing to hear that Taani has left the club under these circumstances. The administrators of the forum always try to ensure that any criticism is not personal but purely related to events that occur on the field of play.