Former rugby league bad boy John Hopoate has embraced his past indiscretions and says he is "proud" of his finger antics.

Hopoate was suspended for a record 45 weeks over 13 season in the top grade and is one of Australian rugby league's most divisive figures.

His most notorious moment came in 2001 while playing for the Wests Tigers when he was banned for 12 weeks after inserting his fingers into the backside of three opposition players from North Queensland.

Hopoate, who is now the league assistant for Mate Ma'a Tonga, says he has embraced that infamous incident and has moved on.


"I'm proud of my finger antics," Hopoate told ANZ Sports Scene.

"You can either embrace it and make it a joke, or you'll be getting angry your whole life because people will be hammering you about it. You just need to embrace it.

"When you make it a joke, people go 'oh, he doesn't care' and they forget about it."

John Hopoate. Photo / Getty
John Hopoate. Photo / Getty

The 45-year-old even joked that his antics took the game global and that the NRL should've paid him for it.

"I always joke with the finger thing, I was doing my degree as prostate cancer doctor and part of my practical cause I couldn't do my courses because I was playing full-time footy, I had practice on the field and that's what I was doing. I was just raising awareness for prostate cancer.

"The NRL suspended me but I took the game global. They should've paid me. People in India knew who I was: 'The finger man'."

Last year, Hopoate's son Will, who plays for the Canterbury Bulldogs, revealed that the controversial moment was meant as a practical joke for the benefit of his father's Tigers teammates.

"His old teammates have since told me the whole thing was supposed to be a prank to watch in team video sessions," Will wrote on the Players' Voice.


"It ended up costing him his personal brand for life, pretty much."

Will also detailed the toll the incident took on his family and how the media made them feel like prisoners in their own home.

Hopoate Snr's career came to an end in 2005 when he was suspended for 17 games for a flying elbow on Keith Galloway.

Earlier this year, Hopoate was knocked out in the second round of a charity boxing fight against former NRL star Paul Gallen.