Parramatta recruit Will Hopoate isn’t concerned by the club’s on- or off-field troubles, saying he’s mentally stronger after a two-year Mormon mission.
Star Parramatta recruit Will Hopoate says his two-year break from rugby league has made him mentally stronger, convincing him he’s up to the challenge of being a success in his return to the NRL.
Hopoate fronted up for his first Eels training session on Wednesday, impressing coach Brad Arthur with his fitness and conditioning.
But he might need to draw on all of the patience and focus he developed during a two-year Mormon mission in Queensland to help turn Parramatta around.
The brilliant 21-year-old has kept his head out of the papers and been far removed from the drama and in-fighting which has plagued Parramatta in that time.
Since Hopoate temporarily left rugby league at the end of 2011 as a State of Origin representative and premiership winner following his outstanding debut season with Manly, Parramatta burned through three different coaches.
But the upheaval, as well as Parramatta’s dismal on-field results that have delivered consecutive wooden spoons, doesn’t appear to concern the versatile utility back.
“I’ve heard a few things that have been happening previously. But the past is in the past now,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“We’re living in the present and working towards the future.”
Hopoate talked at length about his mission work, saying he had no regrets about how he’d spent the past two years – and outlining why it could make him a better player.
“I definitely feel a lot more self reliant.
“Tools that I’ve been blessed to come to know I feel will help me in the long run … But in saying that, there’s still a lot of things that I need to learn.
“I feel mentally stronger. But in saying that, I know there’s still more strength that I need to acquire.
“So I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.”
Arthur said he planned to use Hopoate in the centres, allowing 2009 Dally M winner Jarryd Hayne to remain at fullback.
“I think (Hayne’s) best position is fullback (because) he’s hard to defend,” Arthur said.
“(We want to play Will) in the centres. We probably want to get the ball in his hands as much as often.
“There’s no point having him out on the wing. We’ve got some good finishers there anyway but we need Will involved as much as possible.”
While pleased with the shape Hopoate had arrived in, Arthur was cautious when predicting what to expect in the short term.
Hopoate will be put on a regime designed to add muscle mass which has been reduced during his two-year mission, and Arthur warned fans not to demand the world of the young star just yet.
“Will’s got a bit of work to do but he’s not afraid of that,” Arthur said.
“We just need to be patient with him. Our expectations shouldn’t be too high.
“He just needs to get back around the team environment and enjoy himself. The football will come later on down the track.”