Smith cleared of Hopoate-like poke - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Smith cleared of Hopoate-like poke

By David Beniuk 28/04/2011 08:01:28 PM Comments (0)

Among its litany of unsavoury incidents, the NRL would surely have felt comfortable the infamous John Hopoate finger-poking controversy would not be back.

It isn't - but hearts might have skipped a beat when a "prank gone wrong" from Cronulla forward Jeremy Smith caused the league's match review committee to review the incident from the Sharks' 30-12 loss to North Queensland on Saturday night.

Smith's hand appeared to make contact with Cowboys winger - and the Sharks forward's cousin - Kalifa Faifai Loa's backside in a 63rd minute tackle at Toyota Stadium.

The incident was brought to the committee's attention on Wednesday night, an NRL statement said.

"The committee established that there was no complaint from Kalifa Faifai Loa on which a contrary conduct charge could be based," the statement read.

Committee chairman Greg McCallum said the former St George Illawarra team-mates had been involved in a practical joke.

"From the statements we have been given this appears to have been something of a prank gone wrong between the players," he said.

But McCallum warned players about their on-field behaviour.

"The fact there was no animosity between two players who are in fact members of the same family does not change the fact that the field is a public environment and one in which the image of the game has to be protected," he said.

"For that reason the matter warranted investigation but we are satisfied that there is no further action required in this instance."

Cronulla chairman Damian Irvine did not return calls to explain the club's view of the incident.

Former Australian representative John Hopoate was banned for 12 weeks in 2001 after he notoriously poked three Cowboys players while playing for the Wests Tigers.

At the judiciary, Hopoate claimed he was trying to give the players a "wedgie" and was a believer that "what happens on the field should stay there".

North Queensland players Glenn Morrison, Peter Jones and Paul Bowman disagreed.

"I was disgusted. I couldn't believe it. I know it's a tough game but there's no room for that," Bowman said at the time.

Morrison added: "Hopoate was trying to pick my arse. It's not a thing that I wanted to happen and it's not a pleasant thing."

NRL judiciary commissioner had Jim Hall described the Hopoate case as the worst he'd experienced in 45 years in the game.

"I've never come across a more disgusting allegation than I've had to deal with now," he said.

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