Infotainment Factory: Hoppa to make footy return despite 10-year ban

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Thursday, 18 October 2018

Hoppa to make footy return despite 10-year ban


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Controversial retired rugby league player John Hopoate is set to return to the footy field despite still serving a 10-year ban from the sport.

Hopoate was given the ban in August after fronting a NSW Rugby League conduct review panel following a fight during a Manly district A-grade match in July. In the incident Hopoate had also threatened a trainer and an opposition player with physical violence and told an official to 'f--- off'.

Despite claiming he was provoked by racial taunts, Hopoate pleaded guilty to three counts of contrary conduct and one of striking while playing for Narraweena against Forestville.

His 10-year ban - with five years suspended - does not apply for the upcoming Legends of League competition however. 

Officials have defended Hopoate's inclusion on the Manly Legends team for the November 17 event on the Central Coast that will also have teams representing Brisbane, Newcastle, Parramatta, Canterbury and Barbarians.

“He’s a colourful character and whether people love or hate him, he’s doing it for charity,” Legends of League managing director Matthew Hill told Fairfax.

“He’s happy to put the boots on and take all the flak to play in our tournament.

“I think that speaks volumes of the guy. If you get to know him on a personal level, rather than the John Hopoate who has had brain snaps over the period of his career, he is a lovely fella.

“He’s a family man and he’s happy to boot the boots on to take all that fan love or abuse for charity to play for Manly with his old teammates. 

“The players want to connect with their former rivals and teammates, that’s what they love the most. That’s why we have so many big names.”

The Legends of League tournament raised $20,000 for the Mark Hughes Foundation last year, but there is also over $100,000 in prizemoney on offer.

This year the event is set to feature Sea Eagles fan favourites George Rose, Steve Menzies and Cliff Lyons.  

Hopoate played 209 NRL games for Manly and Wests Tigers as well as representing NSW and Australia in his rugby league career. He also represented Tonga in one game in 1994.

His NRL career ended abruptly in 2005 after copping a 17-match suspension for an elbow on Cronulla's Keith Galloway in 2004. With a total of 45 weeks suspension, he left a legacy as one of league's most controversial players. 

In 2001, he was infamously banned for 12 games for poking opponents up the backside while playing for the Tigers.

After rugby league, Hopoate took up professional boxing and in 2008 he became the Australian heavyweight boxing champion, though his opponent Bob Mirovic called him out for a "dog act", an illegal shove that broke Mirovic's arm in the bout. 

Off the sporting field, Hopoate served an 18-month good behaviour bond after being charged and pleading guilty to common assault on a Crows Nest supermarket worker in May 2016.

In 2016, the NRL blocked Manly's attempt to allow Hopoate to coach the club's under-18 side because of concerns about his character.

And last year during the Rugby League World Cup while in camp with the Tongan team, Hopoate threatened to "bash" New Zealand rugby league captain Adam Blair over his criticism of Jason Taumalolo's decision to play for Tonga at the tournament.

The 10-year ban he is serving keeps him from assisting the Tongan national team in an official capacity, however he has been seen with members of the side in the lead-up to Australia's match against Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium this weekend.

- with AAP

Controversial retired rugby league player John Hopoate is set to return to the footy field despite still serving a 10-year ban from the sport.

Hopoate was given the ban in August after fronting a NSW Rugby League conduct review panel following a fight during a Manly district A-grade match in July. In the incident Hopoate had also threatened a trainer and an opposition player with physical violence and told an official to 'f--- off'.

Despite claiming he was provoked by racial taunts, Hopoate pleaded guilty to three counts of contrary conduct and one of striking while playing for Narraweena against Forestville.

His 10-year ban - with five years suspended - does not apply for the upcoming Legends of League competition however. 

Officials have defended Hopoate's inclusion on the Manly Legends team for the November 17 event on the Central Coast that will also have teams representing Brisbane, Newcastle, Parramatta, Canterbury and Barbarians.

“He’s a colourful character and whether people love or hate him, he’s doing it for charity,” Legends of League managing director Matthew Hill told Fairfax.

“He’s happy to put the boots on and take all the flak to play in our tournament.

“I think that speaks volumes of the guy. If you get to know him on a personal level, rather than the John Hopoate who has had brain snaps over the period of his career, he is a lovely fella.

“He’s a family man and he’s happy to boot the boots on to take all that fan love or abuse for charity to play for Manly with his old teammates. 

“The players want to connect with their former rivals and teammates, that’s what they love the most. That’s why we have so many big names.”

The Legends of League tournament raised $20,000 for the Mark Hughes Foundation last year, but there is also over $100,000 in prizemoney on offer.

This year the event is set to feature Sea Eagles fan favourites George Rose, Steve Menzies and Cliff Lyons.  

Hopoate played 209 NRL games for Manly and Wests Tigers as well as representing NSW and Australia in his rugby league career. He also represented Tonga in one game in 1994.

His NRL career ended abruptly in 2005 after copping a 17-match suspension for an elbow on Cronulla's Keith Galloway in 2004. With a total of 45 weeks suspension, he left a legacy as one of league's most controversial players. 

In 2001, he was infamously banned for 12 games for poking opponents up the backside while playing for the Tigers.

After rugby league, Hopoate took up professional boxing and in 2008 he became the Australian heavyweight boxing champion, though his opponent Bob Mirovic called him out for a "dog act", an illegal shove that broke Mirovic's arm in the bout. 

Off the sporting field, Hopoate served an 18-month good behaviour bond after being charged and pleading guilty to common assault on a Crows Nest supermarket worker in May 2016.

In 2016, the NRL blocked Manly's attempt to allow Hopoate to coach the club's under-18 side because of concerns about his character.

And last year during the Rugby League World Cup while in camp with the Tongan team, Hopoate threatened to "bash" New Zealand rugby league captain Adam Blair over his criticism of Jason Taumalolo's decision to play for Tonga at the tournament.

The 10-year ban he is serving keeps him from assisting the Tongan national team in an official capacity, however he has been seen with members of the side in the lead-up to Australia's match against Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium this weekend.

- with AAP

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