Parramatta star Will Hopoate is hopeful of a NSW State of Origin call-up but admits he’s not as strong in his game as he’d like to be.
Parramatta star Will Hopoate admits he’s not exactly where he wants to be heading into a potential NSW State of Origin recall for game two at ANZ Stadium.
But Hopoate is hopeful of coming into Laurie Daley’s side, following injuries to right-side combination Josh and Brett Morris in Wednesday’s brutal opening Origin encounter.
In 2011, Hopoate was outstanding in his only NSW appearance and, after being named 19th man for game one in Brisbane, is odds on to take his place at centre or on the wing on June 18 in Sydney as the Blues look to end Queensland’s eight-year reign.
However, after spending two years out of the game as a Mormon missionary, Hopoate admits his strength needs improvement, believing the Origin arena has gone up a level in physicality since he was last there.
On Friday night, Penrith scored six of their seven tries down Hopoate’s right side in a 38-12 NRL drubbing.
If thrown into the Origin cauldron, Hopoate would go face-to-face with the most successful try-scoring combination in Origin history – Queensland powerhouse Greg Inglis and his deputy Darius Boyd.
Hopoate hopes Daley will show faith, but the 22-year-old is reluctant to say he’s back to his best.
“It was definitely a physical encounter (on Wednesday) so hopefully I can,” Hopoate said.
“Again I’m still trying to build on strength and bulk up a little bit more to handle the contact.
“There’s still plenty of things I can do to improve and it’s a whole new level of footy and I’m still adjusting back to club footy.”
Hopoate was twice outrun by Penrith lock Tyrone Peachey and put defensive lapses down to a lack of concentration.
“Just mentally, I know for myself, it wasn’t all there. So that’s an area I could definitely improve on,” he said.
“After tonight’s performance, there’s plenty of things I can do to improve.
“I enjoyed the week in camp last week … it was very humbling to be in camp with that calibre of players and just to feel the Origin vibe.”
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur said the physical aspect of Origin would test Hopoate, but backed the natural ability of his centre to get him through.
“He’s getting stronger. It’s more so the physical part of it, not so much the football part of it,” Arthur said.
“He’s going to be his best judge and I’m sure, if he was put in there, he’d do a great job.”