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Four years on from teaming up with Braydon Trindall to help Wenlock Rivers win the Queensland Murri Carnival, J'maine Hopgood will take to a different stage alongside his former teammate on Saturday, but one with all the same meaning.

The former Panthers NSW Cup captain, who has shifted to rivals Parramatta for the 2023 season, will kick off his year with a debut for the Indigenous All Stars in Rotorua. 

It's his first major representative appearance in the NRL after 10 appearances at the senior level, which for the 23-year-old has been a slow burn since he was a teenager running around for the Stallions in Townsville. 

"My Indigenous side comes through my mother and great grandfather," Hopgood told during a fan event at Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation in Airds on Saturday.

"To represent everyone back home and in Hervey Bay and Queensland, I’m very grateful. I’m just excited to give back to the community this week and then get into some training with the boys and hopefully some rewards at the end of the game.

"Everyone knows each other in the team somehow and even if you don’t it doesn’t take long before you do. We always seem to click really quick so I'm looking forward to playing in a team with a lot of great players and represent our mobs.

"And going to New Zealand, that’s going to be a challenge in itself and something the Māori boys have had to do since the concept began."

We want to give back to the people in New Zealand as well, immerse ourselves in their culture and put on a show.

J'maine Hopgood

There will be many eager observers watching Hopgood on Saturday including Eels coach Brad Arthur, who is looking for a lock forward in the early rounds of the club's 2023 campaign with Ryan Matterson missing three games due to suspension.

After being stuck behind a dominant forward pack at the Panthers, Hopgood has enjoyed his switch to the 2022 grand finalists so far and is eyeing off a permanent spot in Parramatta's line-up.

"It’s been awesome, I’ve enjoyed my time so far and the coaches and boys are really good. We’ve put ourselves in a really good position to have a good year," he said.

"You look at the players at Penrith and the forward pack is unbelievable. I had to do what was best for me, you only play this game for a short amount of time so I want to make the most of it.

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"I’m keen to be a part of All Stars week and then get back and have a really good start to the year. You can’t tell both clubs apart too much to be honest, they do a lot of the same things, that’s what successful clubs do.

"They’re doing all the right things and hopefully we can go one better with this new club."

As for any chat around Hopgood's NRL Fantasy potential, he offered some kind words to coaches looking to snap him up this season.

"I have seen a bit of chat around it and they’re already paying an outrageous price for me," he joked.

"I know if I can get an opportunity and get a few games under my belt it will build my confidence. Hopefully I can reward a few of the Fantasy freaks out there."

NRL Fantasy Club by Club: Parramatta Eels

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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