William Hopoate’s decision to decline a million-dollar rugby contract in 2011 so he could serve an LDS mission received national media coverage in Australia. This week, Hopoate is again making headlines for his beliefs, this time for his decision not to play games on Sundays.
Sunday's cover of The Daily Telegraph featured Hopoate’s decision not to play games on the Sabbath.
Hopoate, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, plays for the Canterbury–Bankstown Bulldogs; the team is ranked first in the National Rugby League. Hopoate’s decision means he will miss rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the NRL season and, if the Bulldogs make the NRL grand final, he will also miss that game.
“It really isn’t a sacrifice because the blessings we receive are greater than anything given up,” Hopoate told The Daily Telegraph.
Head coach Des Hasler expressed his support for Hopoate’s decision.
“This is what makes Will so special,” Hasler told The Daily Telegraph. “His beliefs distinguish him. This is what makes him tick. We are very proud to have such a person within our walls.”
When he signed a contract with the Bulldogs, Hopoate said he did not want to train or play on Sundays.
“I understand that Des or the club could have said no without hesitation,” Hopoate told The Daily Telegraph. “But for him to understand and he’s told me this, that he recognizes this is what gets me going, what makes me happy — living my beliefs. I’m very grateful for that.”
During the “Sunday Footy Show,” Andrew “Joey” Johns, a former professional rugby league player, praised Hopoate for his decision.
“I think it’s amazing that you put something like that, a grand final, you’d stand aside just because of your faith and what you believe in,” Johns said. “It goes to show what sort of person he is and what the religion means to him.”
In 2011, when Hopoate decided to serve an LDS mission and turned down a $1.5 million contract, several Australian news outlets covered his choice. In an “I’m a Mormon” video, Hopoate, who served in the Australia Brisbane Mission, explained why a mission was so important to him.
“I’ve got parents that are loving and supporting,” Hopoate said in the video. “I’ve got younger siblings that I love. I’ve been blessed with the talent to play rugby league. I believe all these blessings are from God. If I can serve others to say thanks for these blessings, then I will. “
Lindsey Williams writes for the the Faith and Family sections of DeseretNews.com