Returned LDS missionary Will Hopoate reemerging in the world of Australian rugby

Published: Wednesday, June 18 2014 7:00 a.m. MDT

Mormon rugby player Will Hopoate continues to find himself in the headlines since returning from his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Cameron Spencer, Getty Images

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While Australian rugby player Will Hopoate was on his Mormon mission, he and his companion knocked on the door of Queensland opponent Sam Thaiday, according to Laine Clark of ninemsn.com.au.

They had a nice visit, Thaiday said, but things will be different when the two face off in this week's State of Origin game — Thaiday's Queensland vs. Hopoate's New South Wales — in Sydney.

"No he didn't convert me ... and we didn't try and hide when he knocked on the door. We were very nice and polite." Thaiday told Clark. "It's good to see someone like that go away from our game for a period of time and come back, still be a fantastic player and make a rep team again."

Earlier this month, Hopoate, who was with the National Rugby League's Parramatta Eels, was recalled to the New South Wales team for its crucial second State of Origina match with Queensland, according to web.orange.co.uk.

Since returning from serving in the Australia Brisbane Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the 22-year-old Hopoate has been working to regain his competitive form amid continuing media scrutiny. His mission experiences has given him an extra mental edge, Hopoate told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Being away for two years and facing quite a bit of adversity and rejection, it's helped me to be a bit more mentally stronger and a bit more thick-skinned," Hopoate told the Herald. "I think that helps."

In a second Herald article, a former mission companion, Elder Fa'oa, said Hopoate was one of the most respected missionaries in the mission because of his work ethic and discipline. Hopoate's mission President Lon E. Henderson praised his leadership and humility.

"I had many moments alone in the car when I could ask Elder Hopoate what he was thinking and how he felt," President Henderson said. "They always were deep and important. They were always about things that mattered most. They weren't about fame and glory. They were about doing things that matter most. Those are things we do when we're not in front of the applause of others."

Email: ttoone@deseretnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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