A relaxed John Hopoate shares a coffee chat with Matt Collins.
A relaxed John Hopoate shares a coffee chat with Matt Collins. CadeMooney

PODCAST: Controversial NRL star shows softer side

John Hopoate is one of the most talked about sports people in the world, but for all the wrong reasons. He is currently serving a 10-year-ban from the sport of rugby league for a fight on the field. But that isn't why you will remember 'Hoppa'. He made world-wide headlines with his infamous finger and was kicked out of the NRL after a sickening tackle which left his opponent concussed. In their chat, Hopoate shares with Matt who he is away from the headlines, including how he and his wife manage with 11 children.

LISTEN: Get the full podcast with John Hopoate here.

 

Matt Collins:

Let's talk footy. Take me back to Hoppa as a younger man. When did you know that this was something you wanted to do professionally?

 

John Hopoate:

I played Under 21s when I was only 16 and I was making all the rep teams. I was a lot bigger than everyone else and even my passport said I was 18 when I was only 16. But I was living out West and I was getting into a bit of trouble.

 

MC:

What sort of trouble were you getting in to?

 

JH:

Oh, just hanging out with the wrong crowd. If I didn't get married young I would be locked up now. 100 per cent.

 

MC:

Really?

 

JH:

Yep, I was doing the wrong thing and Bob Fulton (Manly A-Grade coach) helped by getting me back to Manly (Sea Eagles) so I could concentrate on footy.

 

MC:

You married young, 18. That is still your current wife I'm assuming?

 

JH:

Yes.

 

MC:

And you guys have how many kids together?

 

JH:

We have 11 kids.

 

MC:

11 kids, what's the secret to having a happy family with 11 children?

 

JH:

The secret? We wouldn't have so many if my wife left me alone. But do you blame her?

 

MC:

I don't blame her, of course. You are a very good looking man Hoppa. How does the household go with so many children?

 

JH:

Everyone has chores to do, they all get smacked if it isn't done properly. My wife runs a pretty strict household. The house is spotless. She won't cook. She can't cook, but the house is spotless.

 

MC:

Who does the cooking? You?

 

JH:

We all do the cooking. We take turns. The kids won't eat my wife's cooking. She can't cook, but she cleans and cleans. Sometimes she cleans things that don't need to be cleaned. It can be torture.

 

MC:

What's the secret to a long, happy marriage Hoppa?

 

JH:

Just agree. Even when she is wrong because a happy wife is a happy life.

 

MC:

Just agree, hey? It is a shame Hoppa you couldn't do that on the footy field.

 

JH:

Haha, yeah. It's a shame I couldn't do that anywhere.

 

MC:

Is the footy field where you got a chance to let all the frustration out?

 

JH:

Yeah, I let all the steam out there because I couldn't do it at home.

 

MC:

Did you ever get nervous before a game?

 

JH:

I don't get nervous. I don't think about the game. I joke and I muck around until I am dressed, then I am ready to play.

 

MC:

Is that right?

 

JH:

I never got changed until the last minute, when we were just about to walk out and warm up. We used to get stats on the other players, but I didn't give a crap. I used to chuck mine in the bin.

 

MC:

Hahaha.

 

JH:

I didn't want to read about him or how many games he played for Australia or any of that. Because in my head I was always better than them.

 

MC:

If I was asking some of your team mates what was John Hopoate like, what do you think they would say?

 

JH:

Ahh, on the field I think they would say he gave away too many penalties doing dumb things. Off the field, they'd say I am a good bloke and I am there for them as a team mate and a friend. Those team mates from the 90s are still very good mates. But if I played against them, I am not their friend, that is the only difference.

LISTEN: Get the full conversation with John Hopoate here.