Above and beyond: Hopgood reveals mission to secure new NRL contract

J'Maine Hopgood at Penrith training on Monday. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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NRL star in the making J’maine Hopgood is doing everything he can to impress his coaches and earn more game-time in the hopes of landing a new contract at Penrith.

Last weekend the 22-year-old forward, who is currently off-contract, played not one but two games of rugby league – backing up his 18-minute performance for the Panthers in Bathurst with a 49-minute stint in NSW Cup the following day.

It’s the stuff you heard about often in the ’80s or ’90s when players used to get ‘bashed’ in reserve grade before running out in the main game just hours later.

With Hopgood not playing any form of football in Round 2 due to being named as 18th man in Penrith’s NRL game, the Queenslander thought it would be in his best interests to get more game time under his belt last weekend as the battle for spots in first grade heats up.

“Because I got rested the week before and didn’t play any footy, I asked Ivan if I could have another run around,” Hopgood told the Weekender.

J’Maine Hopgood speaking with the Weekender’s Nathan Taylor. Photo: Melinda Jane.

“I pulled up fine in Bathurst and I knew some of the boys were testing their fitness to come back this week, and I didn’t want to be underdone whether that be in first grade or reserve grade.”

With injuries starting to bite Penrith, particularly their forwards, Hopgood’s initiative to play more footy would’ve impressed coach Ivan Cleary.

After making his NRL debut last season, Hopgood said his goal in 2022 is to play more first grade.

“I played five games last year and the goal for me this year is to get a few more games under my belt,” the Hervey Bay Seagulls junior said.

“Obviously coming off contract, that’s always a big thing as well. You want to be playing good footy whether that’s in first grade or reserve grade.

“It’s great that I got a game early on this year, so hopefully I can build off that momentum and get a few more games throughout the year.”

J’Maine Hopgood. Photo: NRL Images.

More game-time for Hopgood will also result in more interest from rival NRL clubs, however with his family – including his mum and sisters – now living in the area, the man known as ‘Mainey’ would love nothing more than to stay right where he is.

“This club gave me the opportunity to play first grade, so it’s always going to be a home to me here,” Hopgood admitted.

“I spent the last four or five years here coming through the grades. Just the group of boys we have as well, the culture we have here… I love this club, I love the team and the boys. It would be an honour to be able to stay.”

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