Hopoate says Eels revival still has a way to go

Parramatta's marquee recruit William Hopoate welcomed the notion of success-starved Eels fans celebrating their team's unexpected high standing on the NRL's premiership ladder, but warned there were still a few mountains to climb.

On Friday night, after they had defeated Brisbane 25-18, the Eels sat in third place on the premiership ladder and, incredibly – based on the pre-season forecast – had they hung on to defeat Manly a fortnight ago the new-look Parramatta would be on top of the table.

"Any win is something to be happy about but to go up and play Brisbane and return home with the two [premiership] points is very pleasing," said Hopoate, who scored his first try for the club during the shock victory.

"We'll take a lot of positives out of the win but it's only round five ...  there's a long way to go. You don't make the semis in round five so we'll keep working hard."

Even though his club and teammates were in raptures with the way Hopoate had slotted back into first grade after he had spent the past two years fulfilling his religious duties as a Mormon missionary, the classy centre admitted he was still to pick up from where he left the game in 2011 when he had earned his NSW State of Origin spurs and won the grand final with Manly.

"I feel a bit more confident as each week goes by, and while I have plenty of things to improve on, I'm enjoying playing with the boys," the 21-year-old said. "[Coach] Brad Arthur and the coaching staff have brought in a positive mentality and attitude to the club and the players are feeding off it and we take it out onto the field.

"Strength is one area I have to keep improving on. One of the big differences I've noticed [since returning to the NRL] is how much stronger the collision and contact is. I want to put on a few more kilos to handle the contact better.

"The contact and definitely the speed has been the biggest challenges.The speed has definitely ramped up but, as I say, I'm enjoying a lot more confidence with each game. I'm also just loving playing again, to experience the atmosphere, to be playing alongside friends and in front of crowds is such an enjoyable feeling."

Hopoate said he had started at Parramatta, who had suffered the ignominy of back-to-back wooden spoons, well aware of the expectations he would single-handedly work miracles. He said the pressure could have become a burden had he allowed it to consume him.

"I felt there was a bit of expectation on me but I've managed to block it out because, with the help of Brad, my family and friends, I realised it takes 17 boys to come with their A-game for a win. So that was the mentality – for me just to come in and do the best I can at the best of my ability to help the team."

Hopoate joined the choir of Parramatta players who have sung the praises of coach Brad Arthur.

"Brad is a great coach but, more importantly, he is a great guy," he said. "He connects very well to the team, he's very upfront and honest about the decisions he makes about the side.

"He's helped me out a lot ... and he's continually giving me tips on areas to improve, which is appreciated. I'm enjoying my time under Brad."

This story Hopoate says Eels revival still has a way to go first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.