William Hopoate is no stranger to being in the spotlight, both in and out of the Church.
The Australian rugby star has made international headlines for his prowess on a pitch, most recently as a center/fullback for St. Helens Rugby Football Club in the United Kingdom.
Latter-day Saints might recognize him from appearances in the New Era magazine, an “I’m a Mormon” video and the Church News. He was even mentioned over the pulpit in general conference by Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (“Your Priesthood Playbook,” October 2019 general conference).
What helps Hopoate to juggle the demands of faith, family and a career in the limelight? “With the help of my wife, I strive to put the Lord first, then my family and then my work. I am a rugby player. It’s what I do — not who I am,” he recently told the United Kingdom Newsroom.
Hopoate first made waves when, at age 19, he rejected a rugby league contract — estimated worth $1.5 million — to serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was assigned to serve in Brisbane, Australia.
That’s a decision he has no regrets over, even now, more than 10 years later. “There are so many things that I use in my everyday life that I learned from my mission in terms of time management, priorities and habits. I see a mission as more of a privilege than a sacrifice because what I gained spiritually outweighs the sacrifice,” he said.
Although born and raised in New South Wales, Australia, Hopoate is of Tongan descent, which he discussed as a featured keynote speaker at RootsTech Connect in 2021.
He is married to Jimicina “Jimi” Green, who is also a returned missionary, and the two strive to teach the gospel to their four young children (with another on the way in August).
“One of the things that seem inspiring to our followers on social media is the intentional role that Will plays in teaching our children the gospel,” Jimi Hopoate told U.K. Newsroom. “He leads the kids in family prayers and puts a lot of effort into preparing gospel lessons just like he did as a missionary.”
Their family is currently based in the United Kingdom as William Hopoate fulfills a two-year contract to St. Helens R.F.C., with an option for a third year.
Hopoate’s most important team is the one he has created with his wife, he said, and she is vital to their success. “She offers encouragement and support to me and the children both physically and mentally.”
The rugby league star’s Instagram page is not only full of game highlights and family vacations, but it also shows special moments like getting to bless his children or attending church with his grandma.
Hopoate said his teammates are respectful of his faith. “If you set your standards and values right from the start, it eliminates a lot of challenges.”
In hindsight, he can see how the gospel and its teachings have helped keep him safe. “With obedience to a health code and being chaste, I’ve been protected from consequences that have cost some athletes their careers or their contracts because of misconduct.”