NRL: Hopoate has no regrets over Mormon mission

Will Hopoate. Photo / Getty Images
Will Hopoate. Photo / Getty Images

Will Hopoate admits leaving his Manly team-mates to complete a two-year Mormon mission after the NRL grand final will be difficult, but he won't change his mind.

The 19-year-old winger has enjoyed a sensational first full season that included a try-scoring debut for NSW in addition to playing in the premiership decider against the Warriors on Sunday.

While having no regrets about his religious path next year, he would be interested in joining Australia's Four Nations squad should national coach Tim Sheens call.

"The plan is still to do two years (as a missionary) and then come back and play the sport I love for Manly," Hopoate said on Monday.

"I am not too sure when I start, I will get a letter in the post telling where and when I am going.

"But if I was to get picked for Australia then I would like to stay and play before I go."

Hopoate said the opportunity to play in the grand final alongside close friends Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans, Darcy Lussick and Jamie Buhrer will make the occasion more memorable than his Origin debut.

The five played together in Manly's U-20 side and Hopoate said their bond is one of the keys to the team's success this year.

"It's very humbling that we have all come through together and we know each other's game well," he said.

"The grand final will be a bit bigger as I am playing with the boys and we are like brothers.

"The Origin camp has helped me prepare mentally for games and it's something I'm very grateful for."

Hopoate admits he suffers from nerves before big games and Sunday would be no different, but NRL rookie of the year Cherry-Evans has no such problems.

"It's only early and there's no need to think about the game too much, it's only Monday," Cherry-Evans said.

Like Hopoate, the 22-year-old Queenslander's had a stellar first season but determined to make the most of the experience of grand final week.

"Joe Gulavao has been around the game for a long time and this is his third grand final and he's been a real gentleman to me," he said.

"He's told me to enjoy it and that you don't get the opportunity to play in too many grand finals, but don't get caught up in all of the hype."

Sea Eagles skipper Jamie Lyon warned Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei to expect a barrage of bombs on Sunday as Manly try to capitalise on his vulnerability under the high ball.

Vatuvei, affectionately known at `The Beast', can be devastating in attack, but has struggled to make pressure catches, as against Brisbane in the opening round of the finals.

"With the kickers we've got, we'll kick up a high ball, Cherry-Evans has put some great bombs up recently that are really hard to defend," Lyon said.

"We won't do anything different to what we normally do, it has worked well for us this season."

- AAP

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