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.''