Canterbury aren’t expecting fullback Will Hopoate to choose rugby league over religion should they make the NRL grand final.
Hopoate has been given permission by Bulldogs coach Des Hasler to miss the side’s Sunday fixtures this year because of his Mormon faith.
He will sit out matches in rounds 10, 11 and 12, a move that could cost him his NSW jersey since he will be missing in the important lead up rounds to the State or Origin opener.
With the Bulldogs having played in two of the last four grand finals and on top of the table after four rounds, there is every chance they could be there come the first weekend in October.
Hopoate has said he has not made up his mind if he would stand down should they make the season decider but Dogs skipper James Graham says he would expect him to choose God over a grand final.
“(The grand final) would be on Sunday wouldn’t it? If he changes his mind, that would be great but I don’t think he’d play,” Graham said.
Hopoate’s decision is set to not just test his faith but his bond with his teammates as well, with the NSW Origin representative set to miss several key clashes.
Hopoate has won the Bulldogs’ players’ player award in two of the first four rounds and has started the year with four tries in four games – more four-pointers than he scored for Parramatta last year.
He has rebounded to form under Hasler, who brought him into grade at Manly and seemingly has the knack for getting the best out of him.
Hopoate sacrificed two years of his career, and millions of dollars in lost earnings, to go on a Mormon mission in 2012-13 and Graham said his teammates supported his devotion to his religion.
“He’s well within his rights to make this decision,” Graham said.
“He made this decision when he was negotiating to come here so it’s not like it’s a shock to anyone.
“I’m 100 per cent behind Will and his faith, if he feels like he has to do that and he wants to do that, no one is going to force him to play rugby league.”