Hoppa's back on field

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Current Status: 24/7 Manly Fan
Hoppa's back on field


JOHN Hopoate is free to make his return to rugby league this weekend after the NSWRL yesterday deferred a code of conduct case against him.

The 31-year-old former Manly winger is now set to take his place as captain of the Tongan team in this Saturday's Oceanic-Pacifica Tournament at Pittwater Park.

``There's no reason I know why he can't play,'' Hopoate's lawyer Ian Byrne said yesterday.

``The case has been deferred for three weeks at least.''

Hopoate faced a three-man NSWRL committee over allegations he verbally abused officials while acting as a waterboy in his son's Manly Cove under-13 match last month.

Byrne said the match referee and another match official gave evidence before the case was adjourned.

The high-profile Manly-based lawyer said the committee is seeking more evidence.

He could face a life ban from all forms of rugby league if found guilty when the case resumes.

Tongan team manager Sue Fiefia was relieved to hear Hopoate would take his place in the Tongan squad for the annual tournament.

``We were all hoping something good would come out of it,'' she said.

``I'm glad he's playing.

``But he's just part of the team.''

Hopoate calmly slipped into the hearing at 10.30am yesterday before emerging nearly two hours later.

He escaped the media via the back door of the NSW League's Club at Phillip St in the city before driving himself home.

Hopoate trained with his Tongan mates at Beacon Hill Oval last night.

The five teams competing at the Oceanic tournament - now in its second year at Rat Park - are Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand Maori, the Cook Islands and an Australian Aboriginal squad.

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