Summarized by Kent Larsen
LDS Rugby Player Reforms, Gains Teammates' Respect
Sydney Australia Morning-Herald 13Apr00 S2
By Roy Masters
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA -- Just one year ago, LDS professional rugby player
John Hopoate had a reputation for trash-talking and nightclubbing.
But now he has reformed, rejoined the LDS Church and gained the
respect of his teammates. And the team may be seeing a side benefit
of his lifestyle change; the team is second in the standings, winning
six games and tieing two.
Hopoate plays for the Wests Tigers, moving to the team from Manly,
where he had developed his wild reputation. Hopoate blames his prior
behavior on his 'self-belief in his own superiority,' which he
attributes to his Tongan ancestry. And he says that the problem is
still with him, "I've still got arrogance in me," he says. "I've got
that island blood that makes me aggressive. "But I don't lose my
temper like I used to. I have learnt to control myself on the field."
Hopoate's transformation didn't happen just because of the change
from Manly to Wests. Hopoate says, "When Manly suspended me [for
eight weeks], alcohol was my main problem." He was suspended
following a drunken brawl at a bar and for missing practice. "Part of
my suspension was I was not to touch alcohol. I thought that if I
have to give alcohol away, I might as well turn my whole life around."
So Hopoate decided that if he had to give up alcohol, he might as
well fix the rest of his lifestyle, "Things were not going well in
many aspects of my life, so I rejoined the Mormon church, and now I
don't touch alcohol, I don't touch tobacco and I live my life
according to the standards of my church. I've got my whole life in
order. I've always been a Mormon, but I went off
the track for a while. I go to the Mormon church at Harbord every Sunday."
Hopoate also managed to improve his ties with his children, three
boys and a girl. He says that getting these ties was part of his
motivation for turning his life around, "They were a big part, too,"
he said. "I was going out all the time, not spending time at home. I
realised I had to secure the future of myself and my family."
Hopoate is now credits God for his improvement, "I am grateful to God
for turning my life around. I pray every day for the
many blessings he's given unto me."