Will Hopoate a 'late-blooming realist' over 'never on Sundays' NRL backdown: Phil Lutton

Devout Mormon NRL star Will Hopoate will now play on Sundays, reversing an earlier ban.
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Devout Mormon NRL star Will Hopoate will now play on Sundays, reversing an earlier ban.

OPINION: Jesus Saves. But maybe not enough to fund a half-decent lifestyle in Sydney. And even He had to work the (very) occasional Sunday.

Such is life now for Will Hopoate; devout Mormon, man of faith and as of now, on the seven-day roster for the Canterbury Bulldogs. His vow to rest on the Sabbath has been unceremoniously trampled by the mercilessly agnostic world of professional sporting commerce.

For the past 12 months, Hopoate has been given dispensation by the Bulldogs to refrain from returning kicks on Sundays. At the time, it was a move heralded by Des Hasler as proof of the 25-year-old's admirable character. In this case, having some convictions in rugby league was a good thing.

As of Monday, Hopoate relented at the request of his club. "We don't live in a perfect world," Hopoate admitted in what was undoubtedly a difficult moment. Alas, Raelene Castle's chequebook only has so much room for part-timers, although he may skip Sunday training sessions or other club activities.

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Professional sport has had increasingly little interest in observing Christianity's marquee fixtures. All sinners are saints on Good Friday in rugby league, which this year saw Hopoate's Bulldogs beat South Sydney. This year, the AFL relented, scheduling a match between North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium, a venue that will forever live in blasphemy.

In America, not even Christmas Day is off limits. On the contrary, it's become big business for the NBA and NFL, with the league and clubs flogging as much festive merchandise as humanely possible to add to the occasion.

So against that tide, it comes as little surprise Hopoate's attempts to hold out came to a swift end in Canterbury's favour. With a suite of Sunday games on the horizon and a contract coming to an end, something in his life had to give.

He's not the first to have to bend a little to keep paying the bills. Israel Folau, when he was the hottest young talent in rugby league, put off his Mormon mission to ensure he could continue his NRL career at the Broncos. A year later, he put off being a Mormon completely, switching codes and then churches.

The Lord Jesus, he reasoned, had given him the ability to leap over hapless defenders, catch Steedens and score tries. Had the prophet Joseph Smith been familiar with the Greatest Game of All, surely he too would have realised this was the best way to spread the Good Word.

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Hopoate doesn't deserve anyone's scorn for his decision, nor should he be labelled a hypocrite. If anything, he's a late-blooming realist that swum against the tide for as long as possible, before succumbing to its currents.

He will likely find his faith and his football can still co-exist when he plays on Sundays and one will not preclude him from the other, even if as he concedes, the arrangement isn't perfect.

Given rugby league's current brushes with the law, the code should be welcoming a clean-skinned, God-fearing fullback. Whether another club wants to indulge his preference for a shortened working week is another story altogether.

 - SMH

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