Hoppo's ref plans By DEAN RITCHIE and PHIL ROTHFIELD February 10, 2006 HE taunted and tormented them for 12 years as a player but former Manly problem child John Hopoate is now ready to become a rugby league referee. Hopoate, sacked by the Sea Eagles last year after a series of indiscretions, has contacted the NSWRL to seek his referee's ticket. Ironically, Hopoate is serving a one year ban imposed by the NSWRL for abusing a touch judge during a junior match last year. He is also on probation until 2010 for the same offence. But Hopoate last night told The Daily Telegraph: "If you can't beat them, join them. I just thought it was worth having a go at. "I'm really keen to do it at junior level and then see what eventuates. "If I enjoy it I might try to progress up the grades. "But I could never see myself at NRL level. Could you imagine all the abuse I'd have to cop? "I don't suppose I can send myself off or put myself on report either." Hopoate has contacted NSWRL special projects manager Eric Cox to discuss obtaining his ticket. "I've rung Eric Cox today to get it all organised," he said. "He said they were only too happy to put me through the course. "I'm also doing a level 1 coaching course. "I've had more than my share of dramas over the years but I'm still keen to put something back into the game, particularly at the kid's level." Hopoate's junior club, Manly Cove, is assisting their former player in his bid to become a referee. "I think it's a good thing that John will get to see things from a referee's perspective," said Manly Cove president Scott Taylor. "I think he'll be a very, very good referee. "He's got a good understanding and knowledge of the game. "We support anything that furthers John's rugby league resume." The NRL said last night Hopoate may now appreciate what referees endure each week. "When John finishes his current suspension, if he is serious about becoming a referee, it might give him a greater appreciation of the difficulties that go with the job," said NRL operations manager and former international referee Graham Annesley. Hopoate was cut by Manly nearly a year ago after being found guilty by the NRL judiciary of elbowing then Cronulla forward Keith Galloway to the head during a controversial match at Brookvale Oval. He was suspended for 18 matches. Hopoate has since taken up amateur boxing but is yet to contest his first fight. His jump into refereeing will not tarnish his desire to fight.