He won’t don the blue and gold until 2014, but Manly coach Des Hasler confirmed rising star Will Hopoate had played his final game for the Sea Eagles ahead of his impending move to NRL rivals Parramatta.
Manly’s NRL premiership celebrations hit a snag on Tuesday with revelations Hopoate would join the Eels at the completion of his two-year Mormon mission.
Eels officials could not be contacted to confirm the two-year deal – rumoured to be worth up to $800,000 a season – but Hasler admitted the Sea Eagles had missed out on retaining the 19-year-old utility back.
“It was a very tough decision for Will,” Hasler told reporters on Tuesday.
“But I know Will did what was best for him and his family.
“Will is a person of great conviction, shown by him leaving the game for two years to serve his Mormon mission.
“He is also a bloke of sincerity and we wish him every success in his two years out of the game and then at Parramatta.”
News of Hopoate’s departure shocked Sea Eagles supporters, particularly after he expressed excitement at the prospect of returning to the club once he had finished his religious duties.
“That’s the plan, I want to come back and play and now I know what this feels like it’ll be a joy to have it again,” Hopoate said in the aftermath of Manly’s grand final win on Sunday.
The son of former Test winger John Hopoate was a star as he progressed through Manly’s junior system, and impressed with his skill and composure when handed a shock NSW Origin jumper earlier this year.
While the Eels won’t be able to utilise his talents for another two seasons, his impending arrival will no doubt have Parramatta fans salivating at the prospect of him linking up with Jarryd Hayne and 2012 recruit Chris Sandow.
Buford Balony says: So much for being a man of God, with morals and shit. He’d already signed with the Eels while saying he wanted to stay loyal with Manly after his door knocking crusade. Seriously, would you hand over money to this guy for the Mormons when he’s on the money he is. Maybe he should give them his $800,000 a year so he can get into Mormon heaven, whatever that is.