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With 3 NRL games under his belt so far for the season, Dyldam Parramatta Eels centre Will Hopoate has had time to stop and consider the changes to the game since he left Manly-Warringah to commence his Mission in 2012.

And as the team prepares to rebound from a heartbreaking last-minute loss to his former team, the Sea Eagles, Hopoate says the NRL in 2014 is even more physically challenging than he remembers.

“Obviously we were devastated with the loss and it hurts,” Hopoate said.

“It was a gutsy performance from both sides, very challenging and physical.”

“To me [after two years away] it seems a lot of the boys are stronger and more physical and faster now; maybe that’s just speaks of his slow and weak I’ve gone!” 

“I feel a bit more confident as each week comes by. It’s been a challenge but credit and thanks goes to the staff: they’ve helped me out a lot and especially the boys as well, they’ve helped me adjust back to the NRL.”

“Rugby League is what I love. I missed it [on my Mission] but I loved what I was doing so that took my mind off it.

“Being away from the game for a little bit, I’m enjoying just being in the team atmosphere and the Rugby League atmosphere; I’m just enjoying it really.”

The next challenge for the Blue and Gold is at home against the Penrith Panthers at Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta, in what’s being dubbed the “Battle of the West”.

And Hopoate says he can already sense game day approaching, the second home game of the season for the Eels.

“There’s a bit of a hype already, and I’m just excited to be a part of it!”

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