John Hopoate’s controversial association with the NRL won’t continue anytime soon after Manly’s move to appoint him as their SG Ball coach for the 2016 season was blocked by rugby league’s governing body.
New Manly coach Trent Barrett spoke glowingly of Hopoate’s potential as a coach at a Sea Eagles media launch on Wednesday.
However on Thursday the NRL confirmed it had denied a move from the Sea Eagles for Hopoate to be registered as a club official, effectively stymying his move up rugby league’s coaching ranks.
“We’ve reviewed the application and determined that he is not suitable to be registered with the NRL as an official,” an NRL spokesman told AAP.
Hopoate holds the inglorious record as the NRL’s most suspended player. The former Manly, Wests Tigers and Northern Eagles utility was banned for a whopping 45 weeks due to onfield indiscretions.
However, it is his more recent dramas that are understood to have led to the NRL’s move.
Last year, Hopoate was the subject of a Manly Junior Rugby League investigation over the alleged abuse of a referee in an under-10s fixture.
The year before he pleaded guilty to intimidating a parking officer in Kings Cross. The 41-year-old was also involved in an incident in the Sydney nightclub district in 2010, when he was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and affray.
The announcement is said to have come as a shock to Hopoate but the NRL is understood to have been in dialogue with Manly for some time over the proposed move by the Tongan assistant coach.
It was one that Barrett welcomed.
“He has a lot to offer as a coach; not a lot of people probably know the real John Hopoate,” Barrett told AAP.
“He is a very generous person, he is a very honest person and I know he does a terrific job with those kids.
“He is more than welcome at our football club.”
Barrett said Hopoate had moved on from his controversies, the onfield lowlight of which was a 12-match ban in 2001 for sticking his fingers up the backside of opposition players.
“I think he has put it (controversies) behind him,” Barrett said of the Tongan assistant coach.
“The people that have those (bad) opinions of him probably don’t know a lot about him.
“Everyone has made mistakes and Hoppa has always put his hands up for that. There is no issue there.”
Hopoate can reapply to be registered as an NRL official for the 2017 season.