Rugby stars and Mormon missionary work

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 3 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Manly star Will Hopoate is leaving rugby to serve an LDS mission at the end of the season and his team hopes he returns to play for them in 2014.

Sydney Morning Herald

The concept of a promising young athlete leaving the money and prestige of professional rugby to serve a two-year Mormon mission with no guaranteed return continues to fascinate the media in Australia.

Intrigue continues to swirl around 19-year-old National Rugby League star Will Hopoate, who recently submitted his missionary paperwork to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His team, the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, hopes to resign him for the 2014 season before he leaves for the mission field at the end of the season. This was the subject of an article by Brad Walter in the Sydney Morning Herald this past week.

Manly officials aren’t worried Hopoate will lose his skills over the course of his mission.

''Will is young and he is very level-headed,'' Manly chairman Scott Penn said in the report. ''If you look at it, he will still only be 21 when he returns so we don't believe that will be much of an issue. He has a great attitude.''

The article also quotes Hopoate, who wants to keep his options open.

''My plan at the moment is to come back, but things can change,'' he told Rugby League Week. ''I'd love to go out on the best possible note in rugby league before I go. I'll try and exercise as much as I can while I'm away, so hopefully I don't eat too much and come back a prop.''

Another Herald reporter Chris Barrett recently traveled with a photographer to the United Kingdom to find and interview former Brisbane rugby standout Lagi Setu, who is now almost a year into his missionary service.

Barrett was allowed to interview the 23-year-old Setu, who asked for news from home. The writer offers insight into the life of a missionary and some of Setu’s challenging experiences, including door-to-door rejection, riding bikes and dog attacks. As for his rugby career, Setu will think about it later.

“As for the game, we'll see what happens when I come back,” Setu told Barrett.

When asked about Hopoate, Setu supported the decision to serve a mission. He also requested a favor from Barrett.

“If you see Hoppa, say hello for me,” Setu said.

Another piece in the New Zealand Herald features the career of All Blacks legend Sid Going. Following his rugby career in the 1960s and 1970s, Going was considered one of the most distinctive and influential players in international rugby.

"Super Sid Going was a one-of, a rare package of speed, strength, elusiveness and tactical cunning, held in high regard around the rugby world as a match-winning halfback of the highest quality," Bevan Rapson wrote.

He left rugby as a young man to serve a mission in Canada. Going and his wife have spent the last year on a Mormon mission in Sydney, Australia.

Email: ttoone@desnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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