Monday, November 7, 2011

Will Hopoate: Rugby star, missionary, and a Mormon

History has a way of repeating itself. A few months ago, we posted a story on Elliot's blog about Sid Going. Sid was a rising rugby star in the early 1960s, and he was also a member of the Church. Faced with giving up a promising (not to mention lucrative) professional rugby career, Sid chose to serve a mission for the Church in Canada. At the completion of his two years of service, Sid returned home to New Zealand, where he renewed his rugby career, played for the All Blacks rugby team, and became one of the legends of the sport.

Flash forward 50 years. A young Australian named Will Hopoate is a rising rugby star. His team, the Manly Sea Eagles, recently won the Australian National Rugby League championship. Like Sid Going before him, Will is a member of the Church who has opted to leave professional rugby for two years while he serves a mission to Brisbane. Will already has a contract waiting for him on his return with the Parramatta Eels, but that's an uncertain future two years off. We hope he will have a very successful mission and return to a rugby career like Sid Going.

Sid and Will met shortly before Will left on his mission. They both spoke to youth at a meeting in Canberra. Speaking of the decision to serve a mission, Sid said:
If I didn’t go, I don’t know if I would’ve have had the career I did. I came back a much more mature person, knowing the goals and directions I wanted to go. It was the best decision I made at the time, and I’m sure Will will feel the same. I think the decision is the best decision he could’ve ever made.
Will added:
I was never the most obedient child, but I have found that if I put the Lord first in my life, everything else just falls into place. Everything just takes care of itself ... He blessed me to play first grade, He blessed me to play State of Origin, He blessed me to play in the finals ... In my heart and soul, I know that those things are blessings from God.
Here is a great "I'm a Mormon" video from Will that tells his story.

And here are several examples of the tremendous media coverage about Will and his missionary service:

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