Much-anticipated comeback: William Hopoate. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
William Hopoate will begin training with Parramatta almost as soon as his two-year Mormon mission ends, but new Eels coach Brad Arthur has warned that expectations needed to be tempered around the club's star signing.
While Hopoate, a premiership winner with Manly and NSW representative before his absence from the NRL, will be one of Arthur's marquee players next year, the coach is taking a cautious approach, given the 21-year-old's last competitive match was the 2011 grand final against the Warriors.
''We need to be patient with him; there's no pressure on him from my point of view or our point of view,'' Arthur said. ''I just want him to get back here - the reason that he plays rugby league is that he enjoys it and he loves it. If we get that happening, and get him enjoying his footy … the footy part of it is the bit that comes naturally for him. That'll just happen. He's just got to get used to the training again, and the rigours of the day-to-day backing up of a footballer's life. It won't take him that long, but we just need to be patient with him.''
While there had been speculation about whether Hopoate would play with the Eels following his mission, given he signed for the club when Stephen Kearney was coach, Arthur's appointment appeared to have ended it.
Arthur said one of the first people he heard from after being named coach was Hopoate's father John, who had trained with him at Manly. ''I've spoken to John, and he's very excited,'' Arthur said. ''He was one of the first blokes who congratulated me, saying that Will's looking forward to being on board. He can't wait for Will to get back and to get into it.
''I'm sure Will's ready to move into the next part of his life. We'll get him straight back into training as soon as he's back. We'll have to be careful with his training loads, and easing him back into it, but we've got good staff here who have been working with him for the last two years, and they'll know exactly what's required.''
Hopoate is due to begin training with the Eels officially later this month. Arthur hoped he would take some focus off the likes of fellow signing Corey Norman as well as Australian representative Jarryd Hayne. ''He's a natural talent, he's a try-scorer, and he's a good finisher,'' Arthur said of Hopoate.
''That's what we want, that's what we need. It also takes a bit of the focus and the attention away from the likes of Corey and Jarryd. Hopefully we have a bit more strength right across the park.''
Arthur said with the addition of Hopoate and Norman to the squad, he held high hopes for next year.
''We need to be positive in our approach to our footy and our approach to our training,'' he said. ''We need to be positive in our approach to 2014 … we want to be taking the field with a winning attitude. We're not going to win every game, but we want to be making sure that we do our best so the fans know what to expect from us.''