SUNDAY SIN BIN
Chequered history: Manly rookie Jamil Hopoate (front). Photo: Nick Moir
Manly have stood by troubled star Jamil Hopoate, who will have the opportunity to resume his playing career as soon as round nine if he can prove he's turned his life around.
Hopoate is still in his teens but has already managed to find plenty of trouble during his young career.
The 19-year-old son of former Manly winger John and younger brother of Parramatta centre William made headlines three years ago for a nude planking stunt and was sacked by the Eels for failing to show at the NRL's rookie camp. He was also done for a DUI offence, which resulted in his licence being suspended.
The damaging lock was warned upon his return to Brookvale he could be sacked if he again stepped out of line and tested the patience of club officials when he was charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm in company and one count of affray over an incident near the Ivanhoe Hotel. He appeared in Manly court during the week and the matter has been adjourned until May.
While Manly have the option to reassess their stance after the court case, they feel there is a duty of care to the player and are sticking by him for the moment. In consultation with the NRL, the Rugby League Players' Association and Hopoate's management, the club has devised a rehabilitation program.
Should he meet the required standards, Hopoate will be allowed to resume training with his NYC teammates from March 30. If all goes well, he will be available for selection against Melbourne at AAMI Park on May 10.
Canterbury cheerleaders, in the traditional sense, have gone the way of the dodo. Keen observers would have noticed the Bulldogs Belles, a staple at home games in recent times, weren't present at the season opener against Brisbane.
That's because the ''Family Club'' will introduce their newest crop of female ambassadors in their home clash against Cronulla on Monday night.
And there won't be a single pom-pom in sight. Instead, the new ambassadors – their brand name will be revealed at the Sharks fixture – will be split into groups of four, each with their own corporate uniform depending on their designated role.
Some, for instance, will be pushing memberships, others the club's community activities, while others will be engaging in corporate work. It's a model loosely based on that of the Miami Dolphins, with Canterbury officials picking the brains of the NFL club's counterparts before making the changes.
"The new group of females will have varied roles around the club across corporate, community, membership and match-day," Bulldogs chief executive Raelene Castle said.
"Be sure to look out for the girls at Monday night’s match."
KNIGHTS DRAW SHORT STRAW
Newcastle officials are livid after the NRL allowed Manly to shift their Good Friday home game against North Queensland to Gosford.
The match is being played at exactly the same timeslot as the Knights' home clash against Brisbane at Hunter Stadium.
The Knights have a strong supporter base in the Gosford-Wyong area but now fear those fans crowd will be cannibalised by the rival game only an hour's drive up the road.
To make matters worse, Newcastle had requested Manly be their opponents for round seven. It's one of a slew of preferences – along with home games against Souths and Canterbury – which the League knocked back.
"We have been absolutely smashed by the draw," a Knights official said. "Conservatively, it has cost us half a million dollars in revenue. Is it any wonder people are winging about the crowds?"
TIGERS' HEIR JORDAN
Benji Marshall may be gone, but there is still a Marshall at Wests Tigers. Younger brother Jeremy Marshall-King, also a fleet-footed playmaker, has just signed a one-year extension.
With young guns Luke Brooks, Mitchell Moses and the Sironen brothers – Curtis and Bayley – also on the books, the joint-venture club arguably has the most exciting young halves in the game.
MURDOCH-MASILA HAS ITCHY FEET
He's contracted to the Tigers until the end of next year, but don't be surprised if Ben Murdoch-Masila bobs up at another club well before then. ''BMM'' has plenty of potential but his fitness has been an issue and he hasn't quite lived up to expectations. We're hearing his management have been shopping him around and it could be that a change of scene is just what the Tongan international needs.
FIFITA DEAL DIVIDES DOGS
He hasn't even arrived at Belmore, but already Andrew Fifita has a bit of ground to make up with his future teammates. The Cronulla prop signed a four-year deal reportedly worth $850,000 per annum and some Canterbury players are privately wondering why he's valued so much higher than they are.
KOROIBETE RUES RED TAPE
Marika Koroibete has revealed he feared visa issues would prevent him from resuming his NRL career this year. The Fijian flyer was stuck in his homeland for six weeks of the pre-season because of red tape.
"Yeah, I was pretty worried about it. Maybe it was not going to get approved," he said. "I thought I was not going to make it to Australia this year.
"I was talking to my manager about sorting out something else, somewhere not in Australia. At the end of the day my visa got approved so I came here."
There were further visa issues that delayed Koroibete's arrival in Auckland for the Nines, but he took his place after arriving a day late. The 21-year-old, who has scored 12 tries from 16 NRL games, is off contract at the end of the year.
"We have some good wingers here," he said. "I'd like to stay with the Tigers; I love the Tigers."
DOWN FOR THE COUNT
As the NRL celebrates Members' Round, it begs the question – how many members does the game REALLY have? Several NRL clubs have membership packages for pets, while others include junior passholders who don't have ticketing rights or bring any revenue to the clubs. Wests Tigers posted a figure of more than 10,000 last year but, to their credit, will no longer be counting their 3000 junior passholders in their future totals.
"Over the past three or four months we've taken the opportunity to review how we classify memberships and the process shows how free and easy we've been classifying members," chief executive Grant Mayer said.
"If you compare apples with apples, last year we had a total of 7,230-odd members under the membership guidelines set down by the NRL. This year we just cracked 7000.
"The aim now is to make sure we compare apples with apples. The most important thing is to clarify what a member is and once we've done that we can go ahead in leaps and bounds."
FULL-TIME FOR OLD SCOREBOARD
The iconic Panthers scoreboard at the southern end of Sportingbet Stadium has been taken down after almost five decades at the foot of the mountains. The old scoreboard was removed last week in order for the stadium to keep up with the times. There are plans to replace it with another big screen at the ground. While there was a backlash from Penrith fans last week, the old scoreboard will be restored and erected at the club's new training facility once it is complete.
EELS' SMITH IS SMITTEN
Finally fit after a horror injury run, Parramatta veteran Ben Smith is in fine form on and off the field.
"It's good to see Benny Smith has finally found love after all those years, I'm sorry but he's finally off the market girls," former Eels teammate Nathan Hindmarsh revealed.