|Hopoate in 2008|
16 January 1974 |
|Height||182 cm (6 ft 0 in)|
|Weight||104 kg (16 st 5 lb)|
|1995||New South Wales||1||0||0||0||0|
|Source: NRL Stats|
John Hopoate (born 16 January 1974 in Nukuʻalofa, Tonga) is a former professional rugby league footballer and boxer. He played club football for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, Wests Tigers and Northern Eagles in the National Rugby League competition. Hopoate also gained selection for Tonga, in the Australian national team and in the New South Wales State of Origin side. His usual position for most of his career was Wing. He is a former Australian heavyweight boxing champion.
Hopoate was born in Tonga, but moved to Australia with his family while he was still young. He subsequently took up the game of rugby league. Hopoate began his professional league career with the Manly-Warringah side while he was only nineteen years of age. Hopoate did not play as a regular first-grade player until two years later in 1995 where he showed his ability by scoring 21 tries, finishing second in the top try-scoring table to team-mate Steve Menzies. After many controversies his reputation became greatly tarnished and his career continued on a downhill slide, seeing him become the "most suspended player of the modern era". A final incident in 2005 led to him being sacked and he retired from playing. He has since become a professional boxer. He is the father of Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles player Will Hopoate.
Childhood and early career 
After moving with his family to Australia he originally lived and grew up in the Manly area of Sydney before moving to the western suburbs as a teenager. Former Australian international Bob Fulton recruited Hopoate to his former club at Manly after remembering his skill and power while witnessing him play as a junior for his Manly Cove side before then going on to represent the under nineteen New South Wales side. Hopoate is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (1993–1999) 
Hopoate signed for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles club in 1993 making his first grade debut against the Canberra Raiders at Brookvale Oval 6 June the same year, however he was in and out of the first grade side on a regular basis during the next two years, not holding down a regular position until 1995. His early season form in 1995 was sublime as he went on to score eleven tries from his first eleven first grade appearances and subsequently lead the try scoring table. Over the remaining rounds of the 1995 regular rugby league season Hopoate went on to score a total of twenty-one tries and became instrumental in Manly's good form leading into the finals series. His talent was not enough to help the Manly side to a grand final victory as they eventually lost to Canterbury.
His fourth season at the club was one where Hopoate was again instrumental in his teams fortunes, while he began the season slowly in comparison to his previous year with only five tries over the first twenty rounds of the season his defence had improved immensely; helping his side to concede less tries down his side of the field. He went on to score another six tries for the season including four in one game against the South Sydney Rabbitohs and ultimately help his Manly side to their first premiership in over eight years.
In the 1997 season he again started the season off slowly on the try scoring front with only another two tries in twelve appearances for the club before turning his fortunes around in round twelve match against the St. George Dragons where he scored three tries before continuing his form from then on scoring eight in his next six games and a total of fifteen for the season.
Wests Tigers 
Signing for the newly formed Wests Tigers in 2000 Hopoate brought both talent and experience to his new club, however his fortunes on the field did not change and he could only find the try line a total of five times during the season. He was suspended several times during the season, including being charged with 'contrary conduct' in a late season fixture against Melbourne resulting from over ten separate incidents in that single game.
2001 became the low point of Hopoate's career, he again began the season poorly scoring only one try in several appearances before causing international headlines after a regular season game against the North Queensland Cowboys where Hopoate had been inserting his fingers into the backsides of several players, allegedly in an attempt to unsettle and upset his opposition. After a long NRL judiciary case Hopoate was suspended for twelve weeks and then mutually agreed to part ways with the Tigers club.
During a 2001 clash with the Cowboys, Hopoate, in an attempt to unsettle several of his opponents, inserted his finger in three players' anuses, the first occurring during the seventh minute of play. At the conclusion of the match the matter was immediately referred to the rugby league judiciary where a case was put forward from both sides on 28 March.
Hopoate claimed in front of the panel of judges that he was simply attempting to give all three players "a wedgie" with his fingers, denying he had done anything wrong and that he was "a great believer in what happens on the field should stay there".
The three victims in the case, Cowboys players Glenn Morrison, Peter Jones and Paul Bowman all disagreed with the reasoning put forward by Hopoate and his team. Jones stated, "It wasn't a wedgie. That's when your pants are pulled up your arse. I think I know the difference between a wedgie and someone sticking their finger up my bum", while Bowman stated that he was "disgusted" and "couldn't believe it."
Northern Eagles 
As he had publicly humiliated both himself and his former club, most thought his career would be over. However, his former employers in the Manly reserve grade side signed him onto their books for the remainder of the season where his good form earned him a call-up to the Northern Eagles first grade side late in the season.
The following year his form finally began to pick up as he went on to score ten tries for the Eagles before the club disbanded in 2003.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles (2003–2005) 
With the reinstating of the Sea Eagles for the beginning of the 2003 season Hopoate was signed on to the club where he originally made his debut for ten years earlier. He began the season well with several impressive performances but again his on field indiscretions were the only headlines he was achieving.
The following two seasons were poor for Hopoate with several on field and off field incidents earning him both fines and suspensions. His final foul-up occurred during a match in the 2005 season against the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, Hopoate attempted a reckless "shoulder charge" making contact to the head of forward Keith Galloway with his elbow. This was seen as the last straw for Hopoate by both his Manly club and the National Rugby League and his career was effectively over. He made a final statement on the Sea Eagles website thanking his fans and supporters and apologising to his wife Brenda and eight children.
In the 2003 season Hopoate breached the terms of his playing contract by playing in a fifth-grade rugby union match in the Sydney competition on 9 June under a false name in an attempt to not get caught. After his Manly club found out and confronted Hopoate he admitted that he had breached his contract and was then fined $5000 Australian dollars.
During the 2004 club season Hopoate become involved in more controversy. While leaving the field at the conclusion of a match Hopoate started a heated argument with a linesman in which he verbally abused the official. As punishment he was given a lengthy suspension by the NRL.
In the round one clash with the New Zealand Warriors, Hopoate attracted more trouble for himself after he verbally abused 14-year old rugby league ball boy Jamel Thompson after Thompson had placed the ball on the sideline of the field rather than throwing it infield to the Manly player. The incident was placed under review with the National Rugby League finding that ball boy Thompson had acted in the guidelines set out and Hopoate was in the wrong over his verbal assault. Hopoate then apologised to the young boy claiming that "he was not aware of the proper interpretation of the rule" and was in the wrong.
Keith Galloway incident 
On 19 March 2005, Hopoate was again in trouble with the NRL, this time in a match against the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks. During the 30th minute of the game he made a charge at Cronulla forward Keith Galloway with his elbow in a cocked position jumping and striking Galloway in the head immediately knocking him unconscious, leaving him on the field with a laceration to and bleeding from his ear. After immediate review from the third official Hopoate was sent from the field for the remainder of the match while Galloway was stretchered from the field in a neck brace and took no further part in the game.
At the conclusion of the match against the Cronulla based club, the NRL match review committee immediately referred Hopoate's case straight to the rugby league judiciary. On 22 March, Hopoate had his case called up to the judiciary, his lawyer and coach attempted to argue that he was doing nothing more than "trying to go for a shoulder charge" and that his raised arm was just an attempt to protect his ribs. His contrition carried little weight with the panel and ultimately his defence failed to convince anyone that he had done nothing wrong and he was given a seventeen game suspension. With his season over, his loyal club that had stood by him through many of his career indiscretions decided they had no other choice than to terminate his contract with immediate effect on 23 March 2005.
Representative career 
New South Wales 
After his spectacular form and try scoring feats during the 1995 season Hopoate was called up to his first senior representative match for New South Wales in game one of the 1995 State of Origin series. After a decent performance from Hopoate he was retained for the second game but then subsequently dropped from the third game because of an injury.
With Tonga looking to pick Hopoate for his nation of birth for the 1995 World Cup, Australia took no chances and instead called him up to the Australian side under the residency ruling. He was selected in the opening match of the cup yet failed to score and then made a vital mistake that turned out to be the turning point in a match that was eventually won by Australia's opponents England. Hopoate also played in Australia's following match against the South Africans, scoring three times in a crushing 86 to 6 victory.
Boxing career 
With the termination of his Sea Eagles contract effectively bringing to an end his days of playing rugby league, Hopoate announced that he would begin training in an attempt to undertake a career in professional boxing.
On 17 May 2006 he fought in his first professional boxing bout, on the undercard of the Anthony Mundine and Danny Green fight. Hopoate won his debut after only 47 seconds of the opening round, knocking out Frank "The Big Ship" Faasolo.
After the quick victory, Hopoate challenged former rugby league player Mark Geyer to a fight, citing his reasons as being "I know he hates being bagged, but for him to go sit behind a magazine and bag other players, I don't like that". Geyer turned down the challenge on the NRL Footy Show the following week.
Hopoate's third fight was against Ipswich Brothers rugby league prop forward Anthony Fowler. The pair had previously fought during an under-17 representative match 15 years earlier, but Fowler found little opportunity to trade blows with Hopoate as he was left motionless on the canvas after just 34 seconds of his only professional boxing appearance.
Subsequently, he defeated two more heavyweights from New Zealand during bouts in Queensland. Hopoate first put a finish to one-sided event against Oscar Talemaira with a first round technical knockout on 17 November. He then knocked out Hiriwa Te Rangi on 24 February 2007 after a stiffer contest that lasted five rounds, his longest fight to date.
Hopoate then moved to a 6–0 record by dispatching the heavy-hitting Richard "Tootin'" Tutaki with a series of second round body-blows on 7 March 2007 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, again on an Anthony Mundine undercard. Lovemore N'dou, the IBF junior welterweight champion, said after watching the bout that Hopoate is an embarrassment to the sport of boxing, and that he was disgusted with what he saw. As part of his scathing criticism of Hopoate, as well as Willie Mason's older brother Les, N'dou said: "Footballers like them thinking they can box turns what is a scientific and artistic sport into a circus. They are making fools out of themselves and fools out of a sport I love. I despise them and everything they stand for".
On 30 March 2007, Hopoate experienced his first defeat, which came at the hands of Brian Fitzgerald. The result, a split decision after six rounds, proved controversial and inspired Hopoate to say, "I'm being vilified again. It obviously has something to do with my playing days. I know I'm going to be 'John Hopoate' for the rest of my life. But I've tried to take a new road and I thought I was going along good, until this. They are racist cause I'm from Tonga, it's not bloody right. I never get a fair go from Aussies".
On 13 April 2007, Hopoate suffered his second straight loss, inflicted by former national kickboxing champion, Ben Edwards, who was making his professional boxing debut. Hopoate's performance, which was brought to an abrupt end by technical knockout after just 90 seconds of the first round, was jeered and ridiculed by the 200-odd paying spectators, several of whom were seen to throw plastic beer cups in the direction of Hopoate. With three further bouts scheduled before July, he aimed to continue his career. However, following his earlier criticism, Lovemore N'dou has commented that Hopoate needs to "learn to fight properly", as well as the more inflammatory "Hoppa should stop putting his finger up other guys anuses "; however, has now offered to help him out at no charge.
On 10 September 2008, Hopoate became Australian heavyweight boxing champion. The Sydney fighter finished defending champion Bob Mirovic deep into the ninth round of an epic bout at the Gold Coast convention centre.
Hopoate cornered "The Big Bear" Mirovic and hit him with more than six clean punches to knock the 42-year-old to the floor. Mirovic got to his feet but his trainer Jeff Fenech threw in the towel to end the fight.
Subsequent to the title fight, controversy ensued, Mirovic claiming that Hopoate used illegal tactics during the bout which resulted in Mirovic having his arm broken. Mirovic believes he was illegally shoved to the ground in the sixth round, which left him with a broken arm and no hope of carrying on."I couldn't throw a punch for the final three rounds because of what Hoppa did," Mirovic said.
"I'd cop it on the chin if I lost the fight fair and square, but there's no way I'll sit back if something illegal was done to me. It was a dog act by Hoppa. I can't do anything now for three months and I'm demanding Hoppa doesn't fight anybody else until he gives me a rematch."
He fought Cliff Couser on 20 March 2009 and won the fight by technical knockout after Couser did not answer the bell for the fourth round.
Hopoate fought Oliver McCall on 22 May 2009 for the International Boxing Association (IBA) Intercontinental heavyweight title in a fight which he lost by second round technical knockout after being knocked down twice in the fight.
He fought Bob Mirovic again on 23 July 2009, beating him on points after a gruelling 10-round match.
Hopoate fought Colin Wilson on 10 October 2009, on the undercard of the David Tua and Shane Cameron fight. Hopoate started the fight well scoring a knock down in the third round, before Colin Wilson came back from the knock down to knock Hopoate down late in the same round. Wilson went on to win the fight knocking Hopoate out in the fourth round.
Hopoate then fought Shane Cameron on 20 March 2010, losing the fight by disqualification in the second round after Hopoate wrestled with Cameron and tried throwing him to the ground more than he tried throwing punches.
Criminal charges 
In December 2010 Hopoate was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and affray following an incident at the Trademark Hotel in Kings Cross where he worked. Hopoate was employed as a Responsible Service of Alcohol marshall and not for security.
- Phil Rothfield and Rebecca Wilson (1 July 2007). "Hoppa a player agent". The Daily Telegraph (Australia). Retrieved 2 October 2010.
- Alan Whiticker & Glen Hudson (2007). The Encyclopedia of Rugby League Players. Wetherill Park, New South Wales: Gary Allen Pty Ltd. pp. 246–247. ISBN 978-1-877082-93-1.
- Mascord, Steve (23 March 2005). "Hoppa out: banned, sacked, retired". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- "John Hopoate tells of lessons learned". Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 16 November 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- "Rugby League: Lowe – kick Hopoate out for life". The New Zealand Herald. 30 March 2001. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- ""Hopoate was trying to pick my arse" claims player". deltanine.net. 17 February 2004. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- Proszenko, Adrian (6 May 2012). "Gallen set to smash record". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
- "Hopoate sends message to fans". Sydney Morning Herald. 23 March 2005. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- "Controversial player fined". Taipei Times. 19 June 2003. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- Brown, Alex (16 June 2004). "Out for 9: Hopoate faces end of career". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- "Hopoate says sorry to ball boy". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 16 March 2005. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- Lane, Daniel (21 March 2010). "Hopoate gives clotheslined Galloway the thumbs-up". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- "Manly sack Hopoate after ban". tvnz.co.nz. 23 March 2005. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- "Hopoate sacked after 17-match suspension". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 23 March 2005. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- John Coffey, Bernie Wood (2008). 100 years: Māori rugby league, 1908–2008. Huia Publishers. p. 282. ISBN 1-86969-331-0, 9781869693312 Check
- O'Neill, Matthew (18 May 2006). "Hopoate Challenges Geyer". rleague.com. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- "Hopoate Plucks Fowler!". eastsideboxing.com. 20 October 2006. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- Lewis, David (9 March 2007). "Hopoate, Mason 'circus acts'". news.com.au. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- FitzSimons, Peter (6 April 2007). "What They Said". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- Nicolussi, Christian (15 April 2007). "Hopoate floored by banger". dailytelegraph.com.au. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- Gandon, Mike (22 September 2008). "Big Bob seeks rematch with Hopoate". Illawarra Mercury. Retrieved 2010-12-22.
- Nicolussi, Christian (18 September 2008). "Boxer Bob Mirovic says John Hopoate broke his arm". News.com.au. Retrieved 2010-08-19.
- "Hopoate disqualified 'hugging' Cameron". Sydney Morning Herald. 19 March 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- Jones, Gemma (19 December 2010). "Ex-NRL player John Hopoate on nightclub bashing charge". news.com.au. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
- Sexton, Jennifer (26 December 2010). "John Hopoate not a licensed security guard when working at Kings Cross club". dailytelegraph.com.au. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- Professional boxing record for John Hopoate from BoxRec
- John Hopoate's Sportsplayer Management Company
- Soaring Sea Eagles player profile
- John Hopoate try scoring record
- State of Origin Official website Rugby League player stats