Controversy surrounding John Hopoate’s tenure as Manly’s SG Ball coach continues to deepen, with Sea Eagles CEO Joe Kelly defending the former NRL bad boy’s appointment.
On the same day Hopoate asked the NRL to produce further evidence of why he shouldn’t be allowed to coach, the former Australian winger’s lawyer also urged Manly to keep him as their under-18s mentor.
However that would fly directly in the face of requests from the NRL, who say they have told the Sea Eagles on advice from the organised crime squad to remove him from the position.
Despite that, Kelly insists the fact the league asked Hopoate to complete a coaching course in November justifies the club’s decision to stand by the controversial figure.
“I find the whole thing very inconsistent in one sense of what has been said, yet at the same time they are effectively registering him through a level-two coaching course,” he told News Corp Australia.
“If there were concerns, why weren’t they flagged then? It’s all quite inconsistent.”
The Manly boss has also maintained the club’s questioning of whether the NRL had any jurisdiction over the NSW Rugby League run SG Ball competition.
Hopoate, who was suspended for 45 weeks throughout his 13-season first grade career, also defended his character.
“I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I urge young people to stay away from drugs and I don’t gamble,” he said.
“Club legends can be involved in drugs and embarrass women at airports and be allowed to showcase the game in front of millions.
“I think this is bullying. Why is it one rule for John Hopoate and one for others?”
Hopoate has been coaching rugby league for 21 years, since his oldest child and current Canterbury outside back William started playing the game at age four.
He requested the NRL interview parents of children he has coached in that time, and asked administrators to tell him if there were any outstanding issues he was not aware of.
However despite his defiance, Hopoate says he would be willing to stand down from the position if the NRL were to threaten the loss of first grade competition points.
That would be against the advice of his barrister Julieanne Levick though, who has urged the Sea Eagles to continue the appointment despite the added threat of a possible $30,000 fine.
“It’s time for the club to man up and back Hopoate 100 per cent,” she told Fairfax media.
Levick is currently representing William Hopoate in his financial battles with Parramatta, while she also successfully backed Todd Carney following his dismissal from Cronulla.
“These people judging him haven’t even taken the time to even meet him. It’s an absolute disgrace,” she said.