The National Rugby League, and the NSWRL,
may be about to reap the rewards from the game’s dithering and inadequate
approach to disgraced, suspended former player, John Hopoate.

Today’s news is the kind of headline the
NRL does not want, and the game does not deserve.

When Hopoate was suspended for 18 matches
for the disgraceful elbowing of Cronulla forward, Keith Galloway, I wrote in
this column that the NRL needed to declare him a serial offender who should be ‘warned off’
for life.

But no, despite his appalling record,
including the infamous ‘digital interference’ with opponents, the game’s
administrators did nothing.

And then he was found guilty of
abusing/threatening a touch judge during a juniors match last year and all he
got was a one year ban, and probation until 2010. And the citizenry think the
law courts are weak on violent criminals.

Now we learn that Hopoate has made
enquiries with the NSWRL about obtaining a referees ticket. If that’s not
shocking enough, the NSWRL seem happy to oblige.

The time has come for the NRL CEO, David
Gallop, and the ARL Chairman, Colin Love, to get together and do what should have been
done last year – ban Hopoate from any official involvement in the game until
about 2020. That should include playing, coaching, refereeing, and even being a
water boy.

That probably won’t happen, because he has
already been tried, convicted, and given a woefully inadequate penalty. But
there must be a provision preventing
someone with an appalling behaviour record from getting a referees ticket. And
if there isn’t one, one needs to be drawn up today.

The story about Hopoate wanting to be a
referee is being treated with derision on radio this morning.

As the 2006 season – which offers fans so
much – unfolds, the game can do without John Hopoate. And it can do without him in the future as well.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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