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3 days ago
Former Manly winger John Hopoate is expected to enter a not guilty plea to abusing junior match officials when he fronts a specially convened NSW Rugby League sub-committee on October 25.
Hopoate could be banned from all rugby league sidelines if he is found guilty of threatening and abusing junior match officials while acting as a waterboy for Manly Cove during a match involving his son's under-13 team.
The referee and a touch judge involved in the semi-final against the Western City Tigers complained of Hopoate's behaviour in their match reports.
However, Manly Cove president Scott Taylor said the reports were "very conflicting" and claims Hopoate swore at children were "fiction".
"We are just going with the facts, that's all we are doing, not the fiction that's been thrown around at the moment," Taylor said.
"Some people have made accusations about what was said and those accusations are untrue.
"We believe John is innocent, there shouldn't be any punishment.
"John was running the water, which he is allowed to do. He had a conversation, but John doesn't swear in front of kids.
"He is an exceptional coach and role model for the kids when he is involved with them.
"John's an active influence at our club and there's an awful lot of stuff that people don't see.
"He is a life member (of the club), as long as I am in our club John Hopoate is more than welcome."
Darren Morrisby, coach of the Tigers U-13 team, said Hopoate should be banned from league sidelines for a year, but may not come forward if asked to testify as a witness.
"I don't know if I will," Morrisby said.
"It's hard because I don't want to see him out of the game for a long time, he does a lot for the kids.
"Something's got to happen to show people you can't speak to referees like that, but a life ban is too harsh."
Morrisby said he heard Hopoate swear while on the field but couldn't confirm that match officials were threatened.
"I saw what I saw and heard what I heard," he said.
"I heard him swear, my kids heard him, the players heard him."
NSWRL chief executive Geoff Carr said it was a challenge finding a hearing date when Hopoate would be available.
"The chairman is John Reardon, who is a qualified solicitor and vice-president," Carr explained.
"He wanted Hopoate to appear given the gravity of the charges.
"(October 25) is not satisfactory from our point of view but in fairness, John is keen for natural justice to be seen to be done."
Hopoate will meet with his solicitor, criminal lawyer Ian Byrne, on the weekend to discuss their options.
"I'm certain he will be fairly treated," Byrne said.
"I'll get a detailed response and we'll proceed from there."
It's been a tumultuous year for Hopoate, who has switched to boxing after his NRL career was ended by a 17-week suspension for striking Sharks forward Keith Galloway.