There does not seem to be a happy medium when it comes to handing out discipline to unruly professional athletes.
We have seen muggings and murders dismissed and minor misdemeanors draw major reprimands, but the case of John Hopoate represents a new level.
Hopoate has been handed a 10-year ban for his reaction to what he claims was a racial slue directed against him at a Manly A-grade game last month.
He will not be able to play, coach or act as an official without special clearance and special clearance does not seem forthcoming at any time.
He was caught on video throwing a coward punch similar to that bloke who went viral for defending his dog from an aggressive kangaroo a few years back. Hopoate was also heard making violent threats toward a player from the Forestville Ferrets, who are probably less aggressive than any kangaroo.
Hopoate was playing for the Narrraweena Hawks and the game was his first run out of the season and obviously, his last.
The incident initially resulted in a four-game suspension, which seems to us about the right level, but the punch was thrown while using a teammate for a shield and that sort of thing is viewed dimly in a country where honourable fighting is a common expectation.
Five years of the 10-year ban will be suspended, but Hopoate is 44 years old, so it hardly matters.
The sentence was reduced because he pled guilty to charges that included striking a player, threatening an opponent after being red-carded and abusing officials.
The job of abusing officials belongs to the fans, right?
Hopoate was contrite, saying, “I was a frickin’ mug, I carried on like a frickin’ idiot but I don’t appreciate being called a f … ing black money. I lost my s**t but I’d do the same thing if they called me a f … ing black monkey again.
NSWRL Chief Executive David Trodden’s statement was much more measured and required no asterisks.
“Incidents like these, which challenge that safe and enjoyable environment and damage the reputation of our sport, have no place in our game and must be dealt with appropriately to protect our game and the vast majority of participants who respect its rules,” he said.