Will Hopoate is set to return from his two-year Mormon mission in blue and gold after agreeing to terms with the Parramatta Eels in the lead-up to the grand final.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal Eels coach Stephen Kearney and recruitment boss Peter Nolan have convinced Hopoate to commit to a two-year deal, which will begin when he finishes the Queensland-based religious mission in 2014.
Negotiations have been kept under close guard but several Manly officials and players were privately discussing Hopoate’s decision in the winning dressing room on Sunday night.
The Sea Eagles had been desperately attempting to ensure Hopoate returned to Brookvale, but it’s believed Parramatta’s offer was too lucrative for the 19-year-old to refuse. Sources close to the negotiations last night said the Eels contract was worth upwards of $500,000-a-season and could possibly see Hopoate’s father, John, offered a job on Parramatta’s coaching staff.
Hopoate’s manager, Tyrone Smith, was unavailable for comment last night while Eels CEO Paul Osborne and Manly counterpart David Perry could not be contacted. Along with cashed-up Canterbury, Parramatta had been a leading contender to pluck Hopoate from the Sea Eagles’ nest before his decision to put faith over football midway through the season.
But while the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs dropped off, the Eels kept talking to the NSW Origin flanker in the hope of getting him to continue what shapes as a stunning career in blue and gold.
The teenager also threw a dummy yesterday, saying he planned to return to Manly in 2014. “Definitely. It is the club I love,” he said. “Manly is the club I grew up supporting.
“I would love to stay in the maroon and white. In saying that I just want to soak up the win and enjoy the week with the boys.”
But well-placed sources at both clubs yesterday confirmed Parramatta had won out, capping an impressive recruitment drive that’s already netted Chris Sandow, Willie Tonga and Ben Roberts. The Eels are still seeking to create more room in their salary cap by releasing several contracted players, including five-eighth Daniel Mortimer.
Manly will receive some consolation when star forward trio George Rose, Brent Kite and Tony Williams announce contract extensions soon.