Penrith flyer Dallin Watene-Zelezniak says Will Hopoate’s decision to choose religion over rugby league will result in more young players foregoing playing on Sundays.
Canterbury fullback Hopoate has received the blessing of coach Des Hasler and his club to miss the side’s matches scheduled for Sundays this NRL season because of his Mormon beliefs.
Watene-Zelezniak belongs to the same faith and two years ago had to weigh up whether to follow his religion and go on a two-year mission similar to Hopoate.
The 20-year-old admired Hopoate’s stance and expects more and more young players to ask for leave on Sundays because of their religion.
“I’ve always looked up to Will and I never knew you could do that,” Watene-Zelezniak said.
“But he’s opened that door for a lot of people and he’s lucky his coach and CEO are behind that and he gets to take that opportunity not to play on Sunday.”
Watene-Zelezniak said he never considered having a similar clause inserted into his contract because when he started out he believed he needed to play on Sundays to further his career.
He said he would consider missing Sunday games in the future and wanted to follow in Hopoate’s footsteps.
“My faith always comes first, it always has. My faith and family and football’s after that,” Watene-Zelezniak said.
“Football is something I love to do, it’s what I’ve grown up with.
“I had the decision to make about whether I would play on Sundays … I thought if I wanted to make a career out of it then I had to (play on Sundays).”