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Hopoate's 'hand of God' helps to put Sea Eagles over the line

Date

Michael Chammas

Manly Sea Eagle George Rose shows the NRL Premiership trophy to the Manly fans at the Manly Leagues Club after defeating the New Zealand Warriors in the 2011 Grand Final.
 2nd October 2011
 Photo: Janie Barrett Click for more photos

NRL Grand Final Day

Rugby League action, fans and fun from the 2011 NRL Grand Final day at ANZ Stadium. Photo: Janie Barrett

IN HIS final game of rugby league before a two-year hiatus, Manly winger Will Hopoate produced a magical play. In the opposite corner to the one he scored a brilliant try for NSW in his State of Origin debut earlier this year, Hopoate showed off his wide array of skills with an incredible flick pass to send Glenn Stewart over in the 57th minute.

Team-mate Anthony Watmough described it as ''freakish'', but Hopoate, who is about to embark on a two-year Mormon mission, was far more humble about the pass that gave the Sea Eagles an insurmountable lead in the premiership decider.

''I was trying to go to the corner and I wasn't going to make it so I flicked it back infield,'' Hopoate said. ''It was pretty much a fluke. I was just lucky it ended up in Glenn's hands.''

Hopoate is sure to come into calculations for Australia's Four Nations squad, which is announced this morning, but while Watmough has thrown his support behind Hopoate to make his international debut, the 19-year-old isn't so sure. ''I'd love to go,'' Hopoate said. ''But in saying that, I don't think I'll be picked with the wingers around these days. But I'll be thankful for the break as well.''

Watmough was ecstatic after claiming his second title yesterday, but the Manly back-rower was disappointed the Sea Eagles would be without their star winger in 2012. The NSW and Australian forward said Hopoate was inspirational against the Warriors at ANZ Stadium and would be sorely missed over the next two years.

''He's a freak,'' Watmough said. ''He was my man of the match. I don't how he does it because it was just freakish. We'll definitely miss him. Some of the stuff he does, no one can do. That try in Origin … and he was unlucky not to score a freakish one again there today.''

While his Sea Eagles teammates were slamming down beers after their 24-10 triumph, Hopoate, who doesn't drink alcohol because of his religious beliefs, was expressing his joy while downing a bottle of Powerade.

He described the victory as the perfect send off and the ideal memory to take with him on his next journey.

''It's unbelievable, words can't express how I feel at the moment,'' he said. ''I'm just going to live it up for what it is. It's the best possible way to go out. For everything that's happened to me this season, I'm very grateful. Running out there and seeing the crowd was unbelievable and it's something I'll remember not just while I'm away, but forever. Now I've got the ring to remember it by.''

After Hopoate's heroics sent Stewart over untouched, the Warriors sparked into gear and looked like making a late surge at the title.

Despite the Warriors scoring the next two tries to reduce the margin to eight points, Watmough insists losing was never an option. ''I knew we were never going to lose. I'm not being a w---er about it or a bighead, I just knew the boys had it in them. I knew whatever they threw at us we were going to repel.''

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NRL Grand Final 2011 Manly Warringah Sea Eagles v  Warriors at ANZ Stadium. Glenn and Brett Stewart celebrate winning the 2011 Telstra Premiership. Sunday October 2nd 2011. NRL Grand Final Day

Rugby League action, fans and fun from the 2011 NRL Grand Final day at ANZ Stadium.

Perfect timing for Manly as youngsters lead way

JUST as coach Des Hasler had hoped, the Sea Eagles flew under the radar in the opening two months of the season. But by the time State of Origin rolled around, there was nothing inconspicuous about them.

Silvertails and gold: Sea Eagles soar to new heights

THEY have long been a team we love to hate but it is difficult not to admire Manly. For long many have questioned the anger they have shown towards the establishment, but they cannot ever be accused of not being able to channel it where it counts.

Battered Lyon sends clear message to Kangaroos selectors: 'I don't want to play rep footy again'

JAMIE LYON would be a certain selection in the Australian squad for the Four Nations tournament if he wanted to be included, but the Manly centre and captain is adamant his representative days are over.

Hopoate gives Warriors the flick as Stewart chips in with his own freak play

SIX years ago an audacious flick pass from one of the game's young stars lit up the grand final at ANZ Stadium. Last night, it happened all over again.

Aucklanders curse poor call on try that changed game

WARRIORS hooker Aaron Heremaia doesn't recall a lot about the controversial calls of the first half - which he was at the centre of. And he is unlikely to firm an opinion soon, given his desire never to watch last night's grand final again. But he was convinced he was obstructed in the lead-up to Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans's crucial try with six seconds remaining in the first half.

It's time to move on, but brothers are coy on Gallop exchanges

AFTER exchanging words with NRL chief executive David Gallop as the pair shook hands on stage during the grand final presentation, Manly fullback Brett Stewart last night declared: ''It's time to move on.''

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