Robert Dillon: Seven Days in League

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Wayne Bennett ponders how to cater for a couple of dozen footy players, given that he doesn't own a barbecue. Picture: AAP
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Wayne Bennett ponders how to cater for a couple of dozen footy players, given that he doesn't own a barbecue. Picture: AAP


SERIAL dunce John Hopoate emerges from his NSWRL judiciary hearing humming “I fought the law, and the law won” after copping a 10-year ban for his brief comeback with Narraweena Hawks.

Five of those years, admittedly, are a suspended sentence, but the bookies immediately install Hoppa at $1.01 to incur the full sanction by reoffending.

Hoppa admits to being a “grub”, a “frickin’ mug” and a “frickin’ idiot” but nonetheless insists he is a man of principle, alleging he flipped into full-loony mode after receiving racial abuse from an opponent.

“I lost my shit but I’d do the same thing if they called me a f…ing black monkey again,” Hoppa says.

Asked in evidence if he reported the slur to match officials, he replies: “No, I was too angry – because I’m not a bitch.”

Poor old Hoppa. Ten years on the sidelines and for what? Belting one bloke and gobbing off at everyone else in the immediate vicinity. That was just standard practice during his halcyon days with the Sea Eagles.

It seems a bit harsh to me. I mean, it’s not as if he jammed his finger up anyone’s date.


DETAILS emerge of the intriguing battle of wills between the Old Fox of the North and Broncos CEO Paul White.

As reported last week, a host of Brisbane players brushed a barbecue at White’s place to hang out instead with their coach.

“I got a phone call from the players, saying: ‘Coach, we’re coming to your place for a barbecue’,” Benny recalls. “I said: ‘I don’t have a barbecue, but you can come.’ At about six o’clock, they started rocking in … we had a great night, and really enjoyed each other's company.”

I find this rather disturbing. We all know the Old Fox is a teetotaller, but what type of bloke doesn’t own a barbecue? It’s deadset un-Australian.

Also, it raises the question of how he catered for a squad of hungry footballers. Presumably Benny ducked down to the nearest IGA to grab some black-and-gold party pies, Cheezels and a few bottles of Fanta.

As for grog, fair chance it was BYO.


FOR the Newcastle Knights, it’s a historic day that leaves fans dancing in the streets.

After their 20-12 upset win against the Panthers, Newcastle move six points clear of last rung on the competition ladder, with only two games left to play.

In other words, after three long, bleak years, the Knights have offloaded the wooden spoon to some other easybeat losers … preferably Manly.

At Shark Park, Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita reminds everyone that he is still the NRL’s loosest cannon with some bizarre histrionics after scoring against the Cowboys.

Apparently the big fella is none too pleased about assistant coach Jim Dymock’s suggestion that he is not running the ball strongly enough.

When it comes to carrying on like a pork chop, Fifita is not quite in John Hopoate’s class, but he’s certainly worthy of a spot on the podium.


KNIGHTS players Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Danny Levi make a generous contribution towards player welfare after bringing back the biff against Penrith. 

SKD, Levi and Penrith’s Villiame Kikau and Tyrone May all cop 10 in the sin-bin after a good old-fashioned stink late in the second half.

There are fears they might be suspended, but instead the NRL continue their policy of issuing fines for minor foul-play breaches.

SKD ($750) and Levi ($1100) join the long list of players who have been collectively stung close to 40 grand, which is invested in player well-being and education-related initiatives.

Meanwhile, Canterbury forward Rhyse Martin creates headlines with a three-second appearance in reserve grade that allows him to qualify for the NSW Cup semi-finals.

He then backs up with a starring role in the main fixture against the Warriors.

Given the Bulldogs are victorious in both Reggies and first grade, hopefully Martin qualified for two win bonuses.


I NOTE with interest that Wests Rosellas, the Silvertails of the Real NRL, are in danger of missing the semi-finals for the first time since 1979 after their 19-12 loss to Kurri at Harker Oval.

If they lose to defending premiers Macquarie this weekend, the much-maligned “Maggots” will be on Mad Monday with the rest of the also-rans.

This surely calls for some drastic action from head office.

What odds Wests’ team sheet this weekend features names such as M.Pearce, K.Ponga, A.Guerra, H. Ese’ese and D.Saifiti?


PARRAMATTA officials deny allegations from a former employee that they have been breaching the salary cap by offering players cheap rental accommodation. It seems a bit hard to believe, but then again the Eels do have a proud history of simultaneously rorting the cap while going like busteds on the field.


RETIRING Bronco Sam Thaiday names the greatest team he has played with or against during his 16-season NRL career.

Slammin’ Sam graciously includes one New South Welshman in the 13 – Roosters back-rower Boyd Cordner.

Surprisingly he opts for Mal Meninga, the man who punted him from the Test team last year, as coach, ahead of the Old Fox of the North.

Reading between the lines, I’m guessing that when  big Mal plays host, his guests can rest assured they will enjoy a T-bone, a marinated lamb chop, some snags and an icy-cold XXXX or three.