Auto Poster NRL ends any hope of John Hopoate helping Mate Ma'a Tonga in official capacity

Stuff News Articles

Auto Poster
Apr 23, 2013
Rugby league bad boy John Hopoate touched down in Auckland with the Mate Ma'a Tongan team on Wednesday night – but the NRL has been quick to end any hopes of him playing an official role with the international game's rising stars.

Hopoate was already the game's most suspended player when he was handed a whopping 10-year ban earlier this season for an ugly altercation during a Manly A-grade game.

The 44-year-old pleaded guilty to three counts of contrary conduct, after previously being found guilty of a striking offence from the same match, despite claiming at the NSW Rugby League judiciary hearing he had been called a "f---ing black monkey".

Hopoate was a part of the Tongan support staff during their dream World Cup last year – they lost a thrilling semi-final to England – and again during their Pacific Test match in June.

* Big welcome for Mate Ma'a Tonga
* Experience big plus for Kiwis
* Manu v Latrell: Kiwi up for battle
* Sympathy for suspended Inglis
* Eels wait on Hayne

But Tongan coach Kristian Woolf told Fairfax Media Hopoate would not be involved in any official capacity in the countdown to their historic Test against Australia on Saturday week at a sold-out Mt Smart Stadium.

"Obviously he's always welcome around us, he's been terrific for us in the past, and he's got a son [Will] playing, so he'll be around the camp in different ways," Woolf said.


The NRL has blocked any chance of John Hopoate holding an official role with Mate Ma'a Tonga during their tour of New Zealand.

"Through our discussions with the NRL, we've complied with everything they've requested of us, and we were happy to comply."

The NRL made it clear Hopoate was not to enter the field at any time during a game or any Tongan training session, could not enter the dressing sheds – his boombox was impossible to ignore during the World Cup before and after games – and he had to watch the test from the stands.

If Hopoate wanted to address the team or do any "culturual work", that would only be allowed at the team's hotel.

Will defended his father when he told Fairfax Media after the life ban: "For most of my life I've seen the John Hopoate off the field, and that's the man I respect and love as a father. The bloke you see on the field and off the field are two different blokes."

The Tongans are rugby league's hottest ticket, so much so that New Zealand Rugby League officials intially passed on staging the clash with Australia on Kiwi soil for fear it would detract from this Saturday's Test against New Zealand.

Woolf is aware some of his players have not played for nearly seven weeks, which is why they entered an extended training camp in Hamilton.


Mate Ma'a Tonga will take on Australia in Auckland on October 20.

Andrew Fifita, Jason Taumalolo and Brisbane wrecking ball Tevita Pangai jnr are some of the big names who will run out for the tiny Pacific nation.

There was some hope Tonga would get the chance to play a New Zealand Maori team in a warm-up game, but there was not enough time to finalise the arrangements.

"They'll be doing some challenging sessions," Woolf said. "They've looked after themselves, so general fitness won't be an issue. What they would have lacked the last seven weeks was the contact and wrestle, and other things you get from playing games of footy.

"But this is the whole idea of having an extended camp. We'll realistically get five training sessions in and a captain's run before we play. We can't bust them up all week."

Continue reading...