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"Hopoate was trying to pick my arse" claims player
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"Hopoate was trying to pick my arse" claims player

Tuesday 17th February 2004 | by chris [mail] | Categories: WEIRD

The NRL Judiciary had little trouble differentiating between a "wedgie", a "finger up the arse" and the area between the "arse and the nuts" before finding Hopoate guilty.

Follow up:

Controversial Wests Tigers winger John Hopoate has been suspended for 12 weeks after being found guilty by the NRL Judiciary of poking his fingers up the anuses of three North Queensland players.

Accused of one of the most bizarre charges in the history of rugby league, or sport in general for that matter of fact, Hopoate was officially found guilty of 'unsportsmanlike interference'.

On the evidence of video footage and the damning testimony from the three Cowboys players, Hopoate was always likely to be found guilty. The length of his sentence seen as the only contentious matter.

In the end the NRL Judiciary had little trouble differentiating between a "wedgie", a "finger up the arse" and the area between the "arse and the nuts" before finding Hopoate guilty.

NRL judiciary commissioner Jim Hall described Hopoate's case as the worst he had experienced in his 45-year involvement in rugby league.

"I've never come across a more disgusting allegation than I've had to deal with now," he said.

Hopoate, 27, was found guilty on three separate counts of deliberately sticking his fingers up the anuses of Peter Jones, Paul Bowman and Glenn Morrison in Saturday night's match at Dairy Farmers Stadium.

Hopoate, a former Australian Test winger, insisted he was merely trying to give Jones and Morrison a wedgie in order to perform a quick play-the-ball and that he did not stick his finger up Bowman's anus.

Asked by his consel Bernie Gross QC where he was directing his finger at Bowman, the Cowboys captain, Hopoate replied: "Between his arse and his nuts".

Hopoate maintained he did nothing wrong in administering the wedgies and went on to say: "I'm a great believer in what happens on the field should stay there."

Asked to describe what a wedgie felt like, the Tigers winger replied: "You get a burning sensation. Your undies are getting reefed up your arse."

Hopoate's defence counsel contended to Jones that his client had merely administered a "wedgie" on the Cowboy in the seventh minute of the match.

"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," said Jones, admitting that while both acts caused discomfort, they caused different sensations and he could differentiate between the two.

Jones claimed he hadn't provoked Hopoate and that afterwards he immediately expressed his "disgust" and gave the Tongan international a push.

Bowman said after tackling Hopoate in the 17th minute, he stood over the winger and "that's when I felt fingers outside my shorts pushing up my arse".

"There was pressure there. I know he wasn't doing it accidentally. He was definitely pushing.

"I was disgusted. I couldn't believe it. I know it's a tough game, but there's no room for that."

Gross argued that Bowman had been excessive in trying to slow Hopoate from playing the ball by grabbing the North Queensland captain's leg.

But Bowman maintained that "if he (Hopoate) was a man, he wouldn't do that".

When pressed by Gross, Bowman became angry and asked the QC: "If I held your leg, would that give you the right to put your finger up my arse?"

Morrison testified he was caused pain by Hopoate's action.

"Hopoate was trying to pick my arse. It's not a thing that I wanted to happen and it's not a pleasant thing," Morrison said.

Tigers coach Terry Lamb, who has played 349 first grade games, said it was resonably common to be touched in the region of the testicles.

In directing the panel before making a verdict, NRL judiciary chairman Greg Woods told the former players not be swayed by their "feeling of revulsion or distaste".

Gross pre-empted a guilty verdict would cause Hopoate "disgrace and embarrassment".

After the hearing, Wests Tigers chairman John Chalk said the club would appeal against the ruling.

The hearing also made headlines in London.

Under the headline "The sickest thing in sport? RL star is accused of going up and under with fingers", tabloid newspaper The Mirror compared the allegations against the rugby league player with boxer Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield's ear.

"There was Vinnie Jones's infamous grab at Paul Gascoigne. Mike Tyson got in on the act by biting a chunk out of Evander Holyfield's ear. But sport can rarely have had such a bizarre charge as that levelled at rugby league hard man John Hopoate," the paper said.

"The Wests Tigers star has been cited for "conduct unbecoming" after allegedly persistently sticking his fingers up opponents' backsides while making tackles."

Liberal broadsheet The Guardian also reported the claims.

John Hopoate's judiciary wrap:

Date: 13/3/98
Match: Manly v Brisbane at ANZ Stadium
Charge: Contrary conduct (Dissent), sent off during match
Plea: Not guilty
Finding: Guilty
Suspension: Two matches

Date: 9/6/00
Match: Wests Tigers v St George Illawarra at Campbelltown Stadium
Charge: Grade two contrary conduct, sent off during match
Plea: Not Guilty
Finding: Guilty
Suspension: Two matches

Date: 29/7/00
Match: Wests Tigers v Melbourne at Leichhardt Oval
Charge: Misconduct - 10 incidents referred to judiciary
Finding: Guilty on four counts
Suspension: Three matches

Date: 26/3/01
Match: Wests Tigers v North Queensland at Dairy Farmers Stadium
Charge: Grade one striking
Plea: Guilty
Suspension: No ban, points penalty only

Date: 26/3/01
Match: Wests Tigers v North Queensland at Dairy Farmers Stadium
Charge: Three of conduct contrary to true spirit of the game - referred to judiciary.
Plea: Referred to judiciary
Suspension: Twelve matches

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