Will Hopoate opens up about impact of dad's wandering fingers

Will Hopoate has revealed the infamous poke that tarnished his father John's NRL career was supposed to be a joke among teammates.

Hopoate Snr is one of the most divisive figures in Australian rugby league history having been suspended for a record 45 weeks over 13 seasons in the top grade.

The most notorious moment of his career came while playing for the Wests Tigers in 2001 when he was banned for 12 weeks after inserting his fingers into the backside of three opposition players from North Queensland.

It was designed to put his rivals off their game.

However Will lifted the lid on one of the game's most controversial moments, saying it was supposed to be a practical joke for the benefit of his father's Tigers teammates.

"His old teammates have since told me the whole thing was supposed to be a prank to watch in team video sessions," Will wrote on Players' Voice.

"It ended up costing him his personal brand for life, pretty much."

Will detailed the toll the incident wrought on his family and how he and his siblings became prisoners in their own home after media camped outside in the aftermath.

John's career finally came to an end in 2005 when he was suspended for 17 games for a flying elbow on Keith Galloway.

He this year copped a 10-year NSWRL ban for his part in a fight in a park football game which he said was incited by a racial taunt.

Despite his father's obvious failings, Will said he had instilled in him his best qualities including resilience, respect and his Mormon faith.

"People driving by would stick their fingers up and dad, having a short temper, would chase them," he said.

"Kids at school and opposing sporting teams would 'poke' fun at me. My family was all over TV and the back and front pages of the newspaper.

"It wasn't a great period.

"Dad was being portrayed like he was a murderer, which confused the heck out of me, because that was nothing like the man I saw at home day in, day out."

Manly won the match 26-20. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. Photo: Photosport
John Hopoate in action at Ericsson Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday 12th March, 2005. Source: Photosport