Rugby League

Sin Bin

Sacked Tiger Matt Lodge out of jail and back mentoring Aussie youngsters

Sacked Wests Tiger forward Matthew Lodge, who narrowly escaped a 25-year American jail sentence following a wild night in which he allegedly told two women he stalked "This is the night you die", is back in Australia mentoring youngsters at his junior club St Patricks.

Lodge did a stint in the infamous Rikers Island prison after he was arrested for terrorising two women and assaulting a man who came to their aid during a holiday in the United States. The Junior Kangaroo reportedly remembers nothing of the incident due to a combination of alcohol and prescription pharmaceuticals.

Mentor: Matt Lodge is back with his junior club.
Mentor: Matt Lodge is back with his junior club. Photo: Matt King

The 20 year old - who was also facing several domestic violence charges in Sydney - was facing the prospect of up to 25 years in jail in the US after being charged with numerous offences, although the indictable charges were subsequently downgraded to misdemeanours. The prop forward played his junior football at St Pats and assisted the coaches with the under 15s side last season, before he was suspended briefly for his role in an incident involving Cronulla's Fifita twins Andrew and David in the Penrith junior league.

Lodge is now back in the fold and helping out at junior level.

"He's one of our local juniors, he's been with us since he was four years old," said St Patrick's president Ray DeBattista

"He's not registered to be a coach, he just runs the water. He's doing a really good job at the moment, he's assisting not only with guys who were 15 last year and 16 this year but also helping with a lot of the social activities doing as well. He's really turned the corner, I think."


Another former jailbird, Jamil Hopoate, will go back to park football this year in what he hopes will be a stepping stone towards another shot at an NRL career.

Hopoate was released from Long Bay Jail in October after doing time for his role in an assault. The former Manly contract forward, who was behind bars for what Downing Centre Local Court magistrate Jane Mottley described as a "savage and unprovoked" attack, has registered with Manly Cove.

Out of jail: Jamil Hopoate.

Out of jail: Jamil Hopoate. Photo: Anthony Johnson

The Rebels are the former junior club of Hopoate and his father, former Sea Eagles international John, and the club is attempting to form an A-grade side after failing to field one last year. Currently, there is no contract registered with the Sea Eagles but the club may be prepared to throw him an NSW Cup lifeline if he gets his life in order.

The first step would be to return for the Rebels, although his registration is yet to be rubber stamped by the Manly Warringah District Junior Rugby League.

MWDJRL president Mick Covey was unaware that Hopoate had planned a return to Manly Cove but indicated there was a fair chance the League wouldn't stand in his way.

"Would we let him play? Unless there is a substantial case not to, I'd say everyone is entitled to a second chance," Covey said.

"Each application will be treated on its merit but at this point I couldn't see why he couldn't play. We would certainly look at it fairly."

Eels' lucky year

Parramatta Lord Mayor and Eels director Paul Garrard has revealed a civic reception is planned for the blue and golds following their Auckland Nines triumph. It's hoped there will be a big turnout of long-suffering Eels fans, who have had little to celebrate since their last premiership three decades ago.

Big win: The Eels celebrate after their Auckland Nines triumph.

Big win: The Eels celebrate after their Auckland Nines triumph. Photo: Getty Images

"I'd like it to happen before season kicks off," Garrard said.

"It is the [Chinese] year of the monkey and the monkey's lucky colours include blue and gold. The lucky numbers are 4 and 9 and there is an association there as well. So there's a lot of things that are pointing towards a very good season."

In the swim

The Wests Tigers are closing in on the appointment of an NFL-style general manager to replace outgoing footy manager Phil Moss. We're hearing one of the candidates on the shortlist is Alan Thompson, currently on Canterbury's staff. Thompson was previously the head coach of the Australian swimming team during its halcyon days.

Dragons loss

All the talk has been about Cooper Cronk, but St George Illawarra had another halfback on their radar before he, and negotiations, broke down.

Highly sought after: Cooper Cronk.

Highly sought after: Cooper Cronk. Photo: Getty Images

The Dragons had expressed interest in Gold Coast's Kane Elgey before a horror knee injury sidelined him for the year.

Field of dreams

On the same field that Australia is attempting to qualify for the World Baseball Classic this weekend, is perhaps one of the most inspiring stories in world sport. The Aussies are taking on New Zealand, the Philippines and South Africa in a qualifying event, with the winner assured a spot at the WBC against the heavyweight baseball nations next March. On the South African team is Mpho Gift Ngoepe, the first black South African to sign a Major League Baseball contract. It is a remarkable achievement for Ngoepe, whose mother was so poor she raised him in a canteen situated next to a baseball diamond in his homeland of Randburg, a suburb of Johannesburg. "Ever since I was two years old I've been raised up on a baseball field," Ngoepe said.

Before he was even born, a stranger approached his pregnant mother and, insisting the child was a gift from God, played a role in his naming.

"They never met before, but said 'this child here, you must call him Gift Mpho," he explained.

"If you translate my name to English, it is Gift Gift, so to speak."

The shortstop/second baseman created history when he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008 and the organisation recently signed his younger brother, Victor.

"It's a big rollercoaster, you ride it and see where it takes you," said Ngoepe, a member of the Sotho tribe, of his remarkable journey.

"Living at the baseball field, we made it work. We lived in a small house but it was a happy home for me. I have nothing but great memories, my mother did everything she could to raise us, to enjoy life and appreciate everything it gives you.

"I've spoken to some kids in South Africa and are very inspired by my story and what I've done in America."

Gallen 'kills it' in silver screen debut

Paul Gallen's first film appearance is a big chance of being screened to audiences at film festivals in Sydney, Melbourne and even Cannes.

Gallen played himself in the short film Baby Boy, a story highlighting the importance rugby league plays in the lives of underprivileged children. Gallen joined former footballer Ian Roberts in the movie with an anti-bullying message and held his own.

Jackson Mullane directing Paul Gallen and Ian Roberts in the short film Baby Boy.

Jackson Mullane directing Paul Gallen and Ian Roberts in the short film Baby Boy. Photo: Supplied

"Ian Roberts has plenty of acting experience but Gal didn't, so I didn't know what to expect, said filmmaker Jackson Mullane, the son of former Shark Greg Mullane. "It was interesting, he turned up and had a dig and went really well, he killed it."

Asked if he could envisage Gallen making the transition to the silver screen, Mullane said: "Playing himself, he'd have no dramas because he has the confidence and carries himself really well. When it comes to character acting and putting him in the ring against Russell Crowe to play some complex character, he might need a couple of years of training."

Time to deal

This week shapes as an important one for Brookvale Oval as the Sea Eagles and Warringah Council attempt to thrash out a compromise deal. The parties are currently more than $150,000 apart on the hiring fee for the ground and, with the season fast approaching, an agreement will need to be in place well before the mooted amalgamation of Warringah and other councils.

Job security

Cronulla recruit Jesse Sene-Lefao is a bloke not be messed with on the field and now he's muscling up off it. The former Manly forward has juggled working as a security guard throughout his playing career and now he's the owner of his own business, Ironshield.

"I've always been a working guard but now I can create a team and have something to go to once I finish up," he said.

Since starting the company, Sene-Lefao has been bombarded with work and is looking to expand. Asked if any teammates will be joining his crew, the 26 year old said: "One hundred per cent. I've already got David and Andrew Fifita asking how to go about getting a license."

If you want to become a reliable guard or you need one, contact the Sharks forward on

Fittler shot down

Brad Fittler met his match when he and Deborah Hutton filmed the new Golf NSW television commercial. The pair came together for the ad, which encourages people to take up the sport and to become a member of their local club, for the shoot at Stonecutter's Ridge Golf Club.  Hutton nailed her take with her first shot, driving down the middle of the fairway and then repeating the dose a dozen more times for good measure.

New commercial: Deborah Hutton and Brad Fittler.

New commercial: Deborah Hutton and Brad Fittler. Photo: Supplied

However, Freddy sprayed about 50 shots before the cameras captured one usable one. Hutton let her hitting partner know about it, ringing him after he played a few practice holes.

"On your way back, can you pick up my golf balls - they're the ones in the middle of the fairway, unlike yours!" she said.