FORMER rugby league bad boy John Hopoate gained his referee accreditation on Tuesday before declaring: "I could ref in the NRL." Hopoate was in action at Narrabeen where he controlled 70 schoolchildren hoping to make the representative metropolitan north side. And, according to NSWRL referees and coaches development officer Tony Danks, Hoppa acquitted himself well and could easily make it as a top-flight whistleblower. "He's always a chance of making it to the NRL," Danks said. "We already have two former first grade players, Paul Mellor and Henry Perenara, in our full-time squad who are working hard and enjoying themselves. John looked after two matches and he controlled himself well and spoke to all the players." Hopoate said life in the middle was a lot tougher than he thought. "The experience has made me appreciate referees more," he said. "You have to concentrate the whole time, worry about things like getting players back the 10 metres, watching the ruck and counting the tackles. I just tried getting everything right." Hopoate, who was notorious for his run-ins with referees during his time with Manly and the Wests Tigers, said there was no backchat from the youngsters nor their parents or coaches on the sidelines. Given an NRL comeback as a player is highly unlikely, Hopoate said: "If the right doors open there's always a chance to come back to the NRL as a referee. I wouldn't mind it. "I've got nothing against the current referees but I reckon most of the players would prefer a referee who has played the game." Hopoate will make his playing debut for Cromer on Sunday in the local Manly comp. The handy heavyweight boxer will also look to improve his 8-2 professional record when he steps out against Kiwi fighter Sio Vitale in Townsville on Friday night.