Jamil Hopoate credits four-year-old daughter Nala for inspiring him to turn his life around after a troubled youth, leading to a two-year deal with the Brisbane Broncos.
The 24-year-old former Manly forward spent nine months in jail in 2014 for assaulting a man outside a Sydney hotel but since his release has changed his ways, a fact recognised by the NRL Integrity Unit when it gave him the green light to play in the Telstra Premiership last October.
After securing a train and trial deal with the Broncos he made his Brisbane club debut in a pre-season clash with Souths-Logan in February and told NRL.com that his stint behind bars taught him some painful lessons and made him reflect on the direction his life was heading in.
After completing a stellar pre-season at the Broncos, he made a compelling case to coach Anthony Seibold to give him an NRL deal.
"I’m stoked. I came up to the Broncs for a train and trial and my goal was to get an NRL contract. That’s done now so my next goal is to play first grade," Hopoate, the son of Manly premiership winner John Hopoate and brother of Canterbury's Will Hopoate, told NRL.com.
"At the end of pre-season Seibs had a sit-down one-on-one with each player. He pulled me into his office and said he was really happy with my performance and that I had earned my spot.
"He said it is easy to send train and trial guys back to their Intrust Super Cup sides, but then he said that I had done everything to give them no choice [to sign me] which was pretty good.
"I called my mum and dad first. They are my biggest critics and they were over the moon with the news. I have to keep performing and hopefully Seibs picks me to play first grade."
It is his daughter Nala who has been inspirational for Hopoate and given him determination to be a good father and man.
"My daughter flicked a switch on for me. She made the lightbulb turn on," Hopoate said.
"I was young when I went to jail and I could have come out and kept partying but she is the one that made me get back on the straight and narrow.
"Nala lives with her mum and my parents in Sydney. She is up here with me now for school holidays. She turns five in July. I love her to death and would do anything for her."
Hopoate is playing in the Intrust Super Cup for Redcliffe, where he won a premiership last year, and said he now aimed to make up for lost time and forge a successful NRL career.
"I’ve had a lot of hiccups in my career and a lot of setbacks but I’ve had to keep digging deep and put my best foot forward," he said.
"Footy is the only thing I have really got. I am not really smart with the books.
"This is a window of opportunity. I am turning 25 at the end of the year so I have only got five or six years left of playing top footy so I’ve got to get cracking on it."
Hopoate wants to follow in the footsteps of two of Manly's best modern-day back-rowers.
"I always supported Manly growing up and I was inspired by Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart," he said.
"They were my role models growing up so I have tried to base my game on them. I have been told I play a bit like Glenn Stewart with my ball skills."