Big things expected from Parramatta's Hopoate

ADRIAN WARREN
Last updated 14:47 06/03/2014
Will Hopoate
Getty Images
MAN ON A MISSION: After two years on a Mormon mission, Will Hopoate returns to the NRL, making his Parramatta Eels debut against the NZ Warriors.

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Parramatta halfback Luke Kelly says it's only a matter of time before Will Hopoate produces some special footy, but has warned against expecting instant miracles from the gifted back.

The former Manly back and NSW State of Origin representative will make his Parramatta debut on Sunday in the opening round NRL clash with NZ Warriors at Parramatta Stadium.

The game marks Hopoate's return to the competition following two years on a Mormon mission.

"You struggle to come back after a couple of weeks out with injury, let alone two years out," Kelly said on Thursday.

"I don't think it's realistic to expect miracles from him first up.

"But the way that he trains and how hard he trains, I think it's definitely only a matter of time before you start seeing some really special footy from Will."

Centre Hopoate will be one of four debutants for Parramatta on Sunday, along with five-eighth Corey Norman, hooker Nathan Peats and back-rower Manu Ma'u.

Former Brisbane back Norman downplayed the magnitude of the challenge of trying to revive the success-starved Eels after successive wooden spoons.

"I wouldn't say it's that challenging. I came in here and the boys were positive," Norman said.

"You wouldn't think that they've got the wooden spoon the last two years.

"Everything has just been building and it's a great vibe around here."

Kelly, who has shaded Chris Sandow for the starting halfback spot, stressed Parramatta were intent on letting their on-field actions speak for them.

"I guess coming off two wooden spoons, we're in no position to be saying what we're going to be doing this year," Kelly said.

"But the best way that we can show that we're going to improve is through our actions."

Norman, who has moved to Parramatta to play in his favoured position of five-eighth rather than fullback - where he was playing for Brisbane - was looking forward to having the likes of Hopoate and superstar fullback Jarryd Hayne outside him.

"They are the kind of players you just give early ball to, and they work their own magic," Norman said.

Kelly and Norman will line up alongside each other in a competition game for the first time.

"Obviously it's going to take a bit of time to gel," Norman said.

"(But) he's a real good player."

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