Origin lure helps Hopgood fend off second-year syndrome

Scott Bailey |

The Eels’ J’maine Hopgood has vowed to remain hungry in 2024 as he looks forward to a big season.
The Eels’ J’maine Hopgood has vowed to remain hungry in 2024 as he looks forward to a big season.

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur has prescribed J’maine Hopgood the perfect preventative medicine to ward off any threat of second-year syndrome.

It’s the lure of a Queensland State of Origin jersey.

Hopgood will begin his 2024 season in Friday night’s Indigenous All Stars clash against the Maoris in Townsville.

Last year, Hopgood was one of the least experienced players on the field when he made an All Stars debut with only nine NRL games under his belt.

Such has been his rise, Hopgood is arguably the Indigenous team’s most reliable forward in their pack this year.

He was close to the buy of the year last season at the Eels, with his work ethic landing him in Queensland’s Origin squad before narrowly missing out on a debut.

The 24-year-old believes 2023 has earned him the respect of other players in the NRL.

But Hopgood is also well aware there is only one way to keep that, and it can fall off quickly in year two.

“I’ve had conversations with Brad after last year, and during the preseason, and he was asking me, how hungry am I to do it all again?” Hopgood told AAP.

“Am I happy with what I did last year? Am I happy with making the squad for Origin? Or do I want to play for Queensland?

“Those were little conversations we had and definitely inspired me.”

It’s part of the reason why Hopgood has vowed to remain hungry this year, and not to be carried away with his 2023 form.

And he knows his Origin chances will only be enhanced by helping lift Parramatta back into the top eight.

“It’s just about not getting comfortable and thinking I’m better than I really am,” Hopgood said.

“I did what I did last year on the back of getting an opportunity and being hungry and wanting to make a name for myself.

“The only way to do that is be consistent be on the field and obviously play well.

“From all reports from coaches I’ve had, consistency has always been something I’m decent at.

“My role is pretty easy. You just have to go out there and be a hard worker, but you just got to be willing to do it week after week.”

Hopgood doesn’t see the All Stars game as a chance to enhance his Maroons chances, particularly given its positioning as a season opener.

But he has again been inspired by the chance to work alongside and follow in the footsteps of fellow Indigenous and Maroons stars in Johnathan Thurston, Matt Bowen and Sam Thaiday.

“It’s massive for me,” Hopgood said.

“Any kid who grew up in Queensland dreamt of playing for Queensland.

“Being a part of that squad only made me hungry. Being surrounded by guys I idolised, and being back around them this week is huge.”