Super League player cops massive ban over 'John Hopoate' incident

Joel Tomkins, pictured here making 'inappropriate' contact with an opponent.
Joel Tomkins has been banned eight games over 'inappropriate' contact. Image: Sky Sports

Catalans Dragons forward Joel Tomkins has been hit with an eight-game ban over an incident that has been likened to the infamous John Hopoate ‘bum poke’.

The England international was found guilty of “other contrary behaviour” on Wednesday after TV footage appeared to show him putting his finger between the buttocks of Leeds fullback Richie Myler.

Tomkins was deemed to have made “inappropriate” contact with Myler during a tackle in the Dragons’ Super League playoff win over the Rhinos last Friday.

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Tomkins told a disciplinary hearing his reputation would be forever damaged by the accusation and that he feared his career could be ended by the stigma caused by it.

Yet he was found guilty by a Rugby Football League operational rules tribunal after a hearing lasting almost five hours.

A panel spokesman said: “We are satisfied, in fact we are sure, that this incident occurred and that Mr Tomkins placed his finger or fingers between Mr Myler's buttocks touching his anus.

“This was not for any sexual gratification but to annoy and irritate his opponent and was a decision he took in the heat of the moment and we accept he instantly denied and regretted.”

Joel Tomkins categorically denies allegations

In a statement issued to Wigantoday, Tomkins, 33, insists the contact was “unintended” and he feels “mortified” about the public shaming caused by the guilty verdict.

“I'm mortified I've been found guilty of this charge,” he said. “My conscience is completely clear on this - there is absolutely no way I would ever attempt to do what I've been accused of.

“I'm not denying my hand ends up on Richie Myler's backside but it was completely unintended.

“I've been playing the game for 16 years and it's not something that would cross my mind or any player's mind.

“It's a serious allegation and for someone to accuse you of it, they should have to be certain you intended to do it.”

According to the minutes of the hearing, Myler was reluctant to repeat the allegation but was adamant that what he said to referee Chris Kendall at the time of the offence was true.

Joel Tomkins, pictured here in action for Catalans Dragons against Leeds.
Joel Tomkins (L) in action for Catalans Dragons against Leeds. (Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images)

Tomkins says he felt the matter had been settled after speaking to Myler after the match and was shocked to be told of the charge.

“Clearly he’d felt something, I do understand that - but he said he knew I wouldn't have done it intentionally and didn't think I'd be cited for it,” he added.

“We had a chat and I left the ground thinking that would be the end of the issue.

“So I was absolutely staggered when I was charged on Monday evening after Leeds had informed the RFL that Richie Myler stood by his onfield allegations.

“I've made thousands and thousands of tackles over the years, without ever being accused of anything like this; I hope people can believe it was completely accidental.”

Tomkins will sit out the Dragons’ semi-final against St Helens on Friday and accepts that he will also miss a chunk of matches at the start of the 2021 season.

Fans have likened the incident to a series of unsavoury acts committed by Hopoate during a game for Wests Tigers in 2001.

Hopoate was banned 12 weeks after inserting his finger into the anus of opponents during tackles, which the judiciary described as “disgusting, violent, offensive behaviour.”

with AAP

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