Will Hopoate

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Will Hopoate, Aussie rugby star

William Hopoate is an Aussie rugby star and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes erroneously referred to as the Mormon Church. In summer of 2011, Hopoate stunned his fans and associates with the news that he would interrupt his career to serve a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ.[1] He was set to report for his mission the day after the NRL grand final. He was then a 19-year-old Blues center, and not even the lure of a New South Wales Origin jersey could tempt him to change his mind.

"Manly under-20s coach David Penna, who has coached Will since 2008, also believes he can still have a successful career when he returns. 'People might think it is a big step up for him in State of Origin but I think he will surprise a lot of people,' Penna said."

Hopoate returned from his mission in November 2013. He credits his missionary experience in helping him be "mentally stronger in dealing with adversity."[2] He joined the Parramatta Eels in 2014 with an estimated 800,000 AUD per season. In February 2023, he told the Church News, “There are so many things that I use in my everyday life that I learned from my mission in terms of time management, priorities and habits. I see a mission as more of a privilege than a sacrifice because what I gained spiritually outweighs the sacrifice.”

In April 2015, he agreed to re-sign with the Eels on a 3-year contract. Legal complications with the contract left him a free agent. In 2016, Hopoate took The Parramatta Eels to court and was seeking $1.83 million in damages. On 29 October 2016, both parties agreed to a $400,000 settlement.

On 7 December 2015, Hopoate signed a 2-year contract with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs starting in 2016. In his first season with Canterbury, Hopoate announced that he would not be playing for the club on Sundays due to his religious faith. Hopoate even went so far as to say that he would not play for Canterbury in the grand final if the club was to make it that far as the final is on a Sunday. Hopoate missed Canterbury's qualifying final against Penrith due the game being played on Sunday. On 14 May 2017, he reversed his decision and declared that he would be playing Sunday games again for Canterbury. On 1 June 2017, Hopoate re-signed with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs for a further three years until 2020.

In 2017 Hopoate elected to represent the nation of his ancestral heritage, Tonga. He played fullback in every game of their stunning charge to the 2017 Rugby League World Cup semifinals. He was a triscorer in their shock win over New Zealand in the pool stage of the tournament.

He was named at fullback again for the historic first-ever Test match between Tonga and the Australian Kangaroos on 20 October 2018, and played in front of a sold-out crowd at Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland.

Hopoate was born 9 May 1992 in New South Wales, Australia. He primarily plays at fullback but also plays on the wing. His father, John Hopoate, was also a champion rugby player. He married Jimicina Green in 2015. They are the parents of four children (as of February 2023), with another child due later in the year. As of 2023, the family is based in the United Kingdom as Hopoate fulfills a two-year contract to St Helens R.F.C., with an option for a third year.

He was a featured speaker at Roots Tech Connect in 2021.

At the April 2019 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ, Elder Gary E. Stevenson included Hopoate in his talk:

We know Church members and priesthood holders who have experienced success at the highest levels of professional athletics. There are many good examples, but I can list only a few here for the sake of time. You might recognize some of these athletes: in baseball, Jeremy Guthrie and Bryce Harper; in basketball, Jabari Parker and Jimmer Fredette; in soccer, Ricardo Rojas; in rugby league, William Hopoate; and in football, Taysom Hill and Daniel Sorensen. Each has made significant contributions to his sport.
While they are extremely successful in their sports, these athletes would be the first to admit they are not perfect athletes or perfect human beings. They work hard to be the best in their sport—and to live the gospel. They get up if they stumble, and they strive to endure to the end.

He later quoted Hopoate saying that the gospel helps him “identify the opposition’s strategies and provides the spiritual efficacy to withstand fiery darts and better serve others.”

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