No Origin Blues from Hoppa's Sunday decision
Canterbury fullback Will Hopoate says he will have no bitterness or regrets if his decision not to play on Sundays ends up meaning he misses out on a chance to play Origin this year.
Despite a wealth of outside backs in good form to choose from, Hopoate's consistency at fullback so far this year combined with his previous big-game experience will make him an appealing prospect for Blues coach Laurie Daley ahead of the June 1 opener.
But if Hopoate is selected, this Friday's April 29 game against Parramatta will have been his most recent NRL game – a full month out from Origin I – due to Hopoate's decision not to play on Sundays due to his commitment to his faith. The Dogs have Sunday fixtures in Rounds 10 and 11 following next week's Rep Round (with City Country also taking place on a Sunday) leading into the naming of Origin sides, giving Hopoate limited chances to further press his claims.
But if it all means he misses out on a sky blue jersey, the devout 23-year-old says he is not in a position to complain.
"When I made this decision and was in negotiations with the club [to have Sundays off] it didn't really cross my mind at all at the time and so I understand it jeopardises my opportunities to play rep footy and I'll happily pay the consequences for that," Hopoate said.
"My faith comes before footy and if that's the price I have to pay then so be it, I've just got to play the best I can for Canterbury, there's still a long season ahead and that's the way I'll take it."
Hopoate insisted he'd be no certainty to be chosen anyway but added he wouldn't be slightest bit bitter if he had to watch on.
"I pray a lot and one thing I'm constantly grateful for is living my dream, playing with Canterbury," he said.
"It was a dream as a kid to play in the NRL and I have that opportunity every week and so if I'm ungrateful for things that happen beyond that that's pretty selfish.
"I'm just grateful to be living my childhood dream and rep honours if they come, I see them as bonuses and additional blessings and I strive to grab those opportunities with both hands."
For his part, Daley is on record as saying Hopoate's absences on Sundays in the lead-up to Origin I won't rule him out.
Hopoate said he knew that regardless of the situation, Daley would pick the best side possible to win the game for NSW.
"Being coached under Laurie and knowing him as a person I know he'll pick the best 17 for the state and those that are in form and if I'm there I'll be grateful and if I'm not there's no hard feelings at all," Hopoate said.
"There's some great outside backs, Jimmy Tedesco at the Tigers is playing outstanding and 'Fergo' (Roosters centre Blake Ferguson) is playing some good footy too so I understand if I don't get picked, all I can do is play good footy for the Bulldogs and let the rest take care of itself."
If anything the hardest part will be watching the Bulldogs go around without him for three straight weeks in Rounds 10, 11 and 12, according to Hopoate.
"It's going to be tough and obviously I'd love to be there and help the boys in any way that I can but in saying that I'm grateful that the club is allowing me to take this path," he said.
"It's something I feel has helped me with my performance on the field. You get players who get things right off the field and that transfers to how you perform on the field. My faith is a big part of who I am and for the club to allow me to take this path is a huge step and I'm very grateful for it and I'm trying to pay back their support in how I play."