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Dyldam Parramatta Eels centre and NSW Blues winger Will Hopoate says his time away from the NRL has left him a mentally stronger player.

After spending two years away from Sydney spreading the Mormon message, Hopoate says the challenges of life as a missionary have given him the tougher attitude that he’ll need when he runs onto the field for Origin II.

“It’s going to take 17 players to win this game,” Hopoate said. 

“All 17 boys have to come with their heads screwed on properly and feeling fit. Being away for two years and facing quite a bit of adversity and rejection has helped me to be a bit more mentally strong, and a bit more thick-skinned.” 

“As a missionary inviting others to learn from Christ, we face challenges and trials, so I feel that’s helped me mentally.”

Next Wednesday’s game will cap off a remarkable comeback for the young centre, from spending two years without even watching a game of NRL, to a first-grade berth at Parramatta, and finally a NSW jersey.

“My goal at the beginning of this year was to be selected in the 17 for Parramatta, so now to wear a sky blue jersey is a dream come true,” Hopoate said.

“Just to feel the vibe and the energy and the atmosphere that is involved with an Origin camp gave me that bit of itch and desire to want to get out there. My heart is filled with gratitude for Laurie [Daley] for showing belief in myself and selecting me in this side.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Parramatta Eels respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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