Fresh Hopoate primed for big finish
Strike Parramatta centre Will Hopoate believes his five-week layoff recovering from a shoulder injury has freshened him up for a big end to the season.
Hopoate hurt his shoulder in New South Wales' drought-breaking series win over Queensland in Game Two of this year's State of Origin campaign, forcing him to miss Parramatta's past five games.
But after coming through unscathed in the club's road victory on the Gold Coast last Saturday, Hopoate said the rest could be a blessing in disguise.
"Yeah [it is], a little bit. Obviously I would've loved to have played instead of being on the sidelines, but it's a part of the game unfortunately," he said on Wednesday.
Hopoate admitted his shoulder was yet to fully heal and that the club's medical staff was nursing him through each week, but it was no different to any other NRL player pushing through the pain barrier at this stage of the season.
"It felt pretty good [against the Titans]. I copped a few good knocks but it's good to go," he said.
"I'm still receiving treatment, [but] I think everyone in the NRL is dealing with little niggling [injuries] and so I'm just doing my bit to try and get it right.
"Obviously there's plenty of things I can still do improve, but [I'm] grateful to the coaches, they always give me goals and show me video on areas I can improve."
The 22-year-old also credited the club for helping him survive the physicality of a long NRL campaign in his first season back from a two-year absence on a Mormon mission.
"I mean, it's going good so far. I'm grateful to the physios for looking after me. They treat every niggle and injury I have, trying to get the body right," he said.
Ahead of Saturday afternoon's clash against Cronulla, the Eels are one of seven teams sitting in equal with the seventh-placed Cowboys, but languish in 12th spot on for-and-against.
But having returned from injury fresh off a victorious Origin campaign, Hopoate hoped to emulate his state success with his club alongside NSW and clubmate Jarryd Hayne.
"Everyone loves winning. Everyone wants success. So I think it's a drive that each player has. [It's] definitely something that I feel and hopefully we can bring that success here to the Parramatta club," he said.
"I think [the Origin win] has its positives. I mean, Jarryd's such a big member of this team and of the NSW team. To have him with us and with the success that he had – he played such a big role – it's definitely good for the club."