Family and faith drive Hopoate’s dream
He's the teenage sensation yet to make his NRL debut, but Albert Hopoate is already looking to follow in the footsteps of his famous family by embarking on a Mormon mission.
The Sea Eagles rookie exploded onto the scene in 2017 when he produced a miracle play from his own in-goal to set up Bradman Best to clinch a stunning win for NSW in the under-16s Origin against Queensland.
But his elevation from young gun to NRL mainstay has been stalled with the explosive centre suffering back-to-back season-ending knee injuries.
LIVE stream Rabbitohs v Dragons in the 2020 Charity Shield on KAYO. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Hopoate is on the comeback trail and is eyeing a round eight return, but his stay in rugby league could be cut short soon as he prepares to embark on a Mormon mission like his brother Will did after he won a premiership with the Sea Eagles in 2011.
"My brother served a mission and that's something I've always wanted to do as well,' Hopoate told The Daily Telegraph.
"Young men from the age of 18 have the opportunity to serve a mission for two years, and it's entirely up to you when you do it. It's something I'm thinking of and definitely want to do.
"My main goal is to debut and make a name for myself, but then I want to go and do what my brother did. That's what he did - he made a name for himself so when he came back it was easier to come back into it because he didn't have to start from the bottom and work his way into it."
FOOTY TIPS! Join Australia's best footy tipping competition for your chance to win big. Add our experts to your league and join now at TIPS.COM.AU.
Religion has driven Albert throughout his career, and he says the two forces have made him the man he is today.
"I grew up in the Church so that makes me happy, and when I'm happy, I play my best football," he said, indicating he would play on Sundays if required.
"Football definitely hasn't always been everything for me because I've always had God and family first. They give me the motivation to play footy."
Still eligible for Jersey Flegg, Hopoate will be eased back in the lower grades with a hope of making his NRL debut at some stage this season.
It would be a wonderful story for a young man who has dealt with devastating injuries and would also add another chapter to his family's career in footy, with Will and his father John combining for more than 350 first-grade appearances.
"I'm just doing me and not letting my last name pressure me. Playing footy is what makes me happy," he said.
"I'm not giving up after a couple of setbacks, and I can tell you that I'll be back bigger and better. Family and friends gave me a lot of perspective in life and told me things could be a lot worse because you see people going through hard things that make an injury like mine not seem that bad.
"I'm also really strong in my faith and that's helped teach me there are other things in life, which is made easier when you have people supporting you."
Albert Hopoate, CTW, $171,900
The Manly youngster was the third most popular player in KFC SuperCoach during last year's pre-season before going down with an ACL injury - his second. And news he's not due to return until Round 8 and be eased back through the lower grades means he won't be a KFC SuperCoach option until late in the year, if at all in 2020. Still in the top 100 players so sell, sell, sell.