Penrith Panthers utility, Soni Luke, has issued an apology for an incident that has drawn comparisons to NRL bad boy John Hopoate. In the game against Parramatta on Thursday night, Luke inserted his fingers into the anus of former teammate J’maine Hopgood. The footage of the incident has been widely circulated on social media, prompting NRL fans to reference the notorious incident involving Hopoate and Cowboys players in 2001.
One fan commented, “What in the John Hopoate is going on here?”, while another jokingly responded, “Old teammates getting reacquainted.” There have been calls for Luke to be suspended, with fans questioning whether any action will be taken by the NRL.
Differing opinions have emerged regarding the incident. A Panthers official described it as a “bit of fun between two good mates” that went too far. However, senior management at the club has addressed the matter with Luke, who has subsequently offered an apology for his actions. Despite the incident, it is unlikely that further action will be taken by the NRL, as confirmed by an NRL spokesman who stated that the Match Review Committee has only issued the Panthers with a concerning act notice.
It is worth noting that John Hopoate, known for his controversial actions during his NRL career, was banned for 12 weeks in 2001 after inserting his fingers into the bums of North Queensland players. Hopoate defended himself by claiming that he was only giving the players “wedgies.” The allegations against him were considered disgusting, with NRL commissioner Jim Hall stating, “In 45 years of involvement with rugby league I’ve never come across a more disgusting allegation.” Testimonies from North Queensland players Peter Jones and Glenn Morrison, as well as former captain Paul Bowman, supported the claims against Hopoate. Additionally, Brisbane Broncos players Wendell Sailor and Mick De Vere accused Hopoate of using similar tactics against them during games. Despite the controversy, Hopoate showed little remorse and even participated in a Legends of League tournament in 2018, using his finger-poking tactic on opponents while wearing a glove.
In the case of Soni Luke, the NRL Match Review Committee did not charge him overnight. However, Panthers player Jesse McLean has been charged for a high tackle on Parramatta’s Maiko Sivo and will face a fine regardless of whether he contests the charge or not.