Eels put early end to Hopoate code switch
Parramatta have torpedoed any prospect of Will Hopoate preparing for his return to the NRL with the Eels via a stint in Japanese rugby - before it has even been officially put to the club.
Comments by Tyran Smith, Hopoate's manager, that he planned to submit a proposal to Eels officials for the former Manly premiership winner to be allowed a stint in Japan before his arrival at Parramatta for the 2014 season were met with a swift and blunt reply.
A statement by the club on Sunday night said the Eels' recruitment policy focused on "committed rugby league players; those who are dedicated to a winning team culture and who put the team first".
"This is non-negotiable," the statement continued.
So just as the flirtation by representatives of Wests Tigers star Benji Marshall with Japanese rugby union was ended within hours during the week, so was Hopoate's.
"We strongly believe that in the interests of both Will and the club, he is best served preparing with the Eels and taking advantage of the pre-season guidance of our respected coaching staff," Eels chief executive Ken Edwards said.
Smith said he had planned to approach new coach Ricky Stuart and Edwards this week to float the idea that they permit Hopoate to return from two years out of the sport, on a Mormon mission, in the lucrative Japanese rugby competition.
"I'm looking into it because I want to make contact with the Japanese brokers who do the deals over there," Smith said.
"Whether Parramatta is prepared to allow it may be another story, though. However, I think it would be a good idea for Will to play the last few months of the Japanese season - October, November and December - and be back at Parramatta with some footy under his belt in January."
Smith had felt that a stint in Japan would give Hopoate, who won a premiership with Manly last year before he left the club for his south-east Queensland mission, a chance to get match fit before his return.
"It's simply about letting Will get the footy in his hand, making runs, reading the defence and making tackles," he said.
But Parramatta's manager of physical performance, Trent Elkin, who has been helping to tailor fitness programs for Hopoate while he is out of the sport, felt he was better served doing so under his eye.
"It is important that after two years out of the game, Hopoate's comeback is professionally and carefully managed," he said.
Sydney Morning Herald