Will Hopoate has returned home from his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was greeted by his family and loved ones, as shown in this news.com.au video report.
His professional rugby club, the Parramatta Eels, wasn’t far behind.
According to a report by triplem.com.au, the 21-year-old was all smiles in his welcome back press conference with reporters. He is happy to be home, and although regaining his competitive form will be a challenge but he’s looking forward to it, he said.
“I know it’s going to take hard work but I’m willing to put in the hard work,” Hopoate said.
Hopoate also spoke at length on his missionary work. He has no regrets and he feels better prepared as a professional athlete.
“I definitely feel a lot more self reliant. … Tools that I’ve been blessed to come to know I feel l will help me in the long run … but in saying that, there’s still a lot of things that I need to learn,” Hopoate said in news.com.au. “I feel mentally stronger.”
As a missionary, he gained leadership skills that will help his career, he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I have learned so much that will be useful for life,” he told the Herald. “The experiences were great and while I was called upon to help with the training of the other missionaries I learned a lot from them. It’s been an eye-opener.”
In other rugby news, another returned Mormon missionary was recently featured in a BBC.co.uk article.
Loto Tagaloa is a member of the USA rugby league team and has played for the Samoan National rugby team. The 26-year-old hails from Hawaii, where he attending BYU-Hawaii and has a job at the Polynesian Cultural Center. He also served a mission in Melbourne, Australia.
A third rugby player home from the mission is Robbie Abel, recently featured in the West Australian. He is working to get back in shape and play for the Western Force. He was with the ACT Brumbies academy in 2010 before he departed.
“To give up rugby for two years was hard but it was definitely worth it,” Abel said. “I had always wanted to play rugby and I worked pretty hard at it when I was young, but mission work was always something I wanted to do. I always had a strong passion about my religion. I think I have become a better rugby player because of it.
“I’ve learned how to focus on what I want to achieve and go about it in a better way. The mission taught me how to work hard but probably the greatest thing is I’ve grown up a lot more.”
Finally, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is a promising young star with NRL aspirations. But those dreams will be put on hold while he follows in Hopoate’s footsteps and serves an LDS mission, according to the dailytelegraph.com.
“It’s such a big decision because I always wanted to serve my mission,” Watene-Zelezniak said in the report. “Two years is a long time to be away from my family and I’m playing football to support them. … It will be difficult when the time comes.”