Melbourne: Middle-age is yet to mellow former Australia winger John Hopoate, who is set for another lengthy ban for striking a player only minutes into an amateur rugby league match in Sydney over the weekend.
The 44-year-old, the most suspended player in National Rugby League history, was sent off in the Narraweena Hawks’ match after punching a Forestville Ferrets opponent in the Manly District Junior League.
Hopoate pleaded guilty after being charged with a medium-range striking offence, but will contest another three code-of-conduct charges related to “the circumstances of his behaviour after the match official dealt with the matter,” the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) said in a statement on Wednesday.
It was alleged Hopoate stood behind the Forestville bench and threatened the team’s players, local media reported.
“I carried on like an idiot and got sent off, that’s it. I carried on like an idiot, who cares, it’s the story of my life,” Hopoate told Fox Sports of the incident.
“I said I’d bash him on the field but what’s wrong with that?”
The former Manly stalwart, capped once for his native Tonga before playing twice for Australia, was banned for a total of 45 weeks during his NRL career, the equivalent of two seasons, for a variety of offences. He generated global headlines playing for Wests Tigers in 2001 when he was banned for 12 weeks by the NRL after several North Queensland Cowboys players encountered his gross attempts to unsettle them by thrusting a finger into them from behind.
Hopoate’s NRL career ended when he was slapped with a 17-match suspension for elbowing an opponent in the head, leaving him unconscious on the field.
Hopoate, whose son Will plays for NRL side Canterbury, later turned to professional boxing and won a national heavyweight title.
“Without wanting to pre-empt what will happen at the hearing, it’s disappointing such a highly-decorated player has been involved in circumstances that have required him to appear before our judiciary again,” NSWRL chief executive David Trodden told local media.