St Helens centre Will Hopoate says he has been overwhelmed by the amount of support the club have shown towards Tonga at this difficult time.
The reigning Super League champions have launched a kind initiative which will see training kit and sports equipment sent to Tonga following the Pacific island’s devastating tsunami in January.
Saints are encouraging fans to either donate old replica playing shirts, old balls and any other sports equipment or clothing as they prepare to ship items over to Tonga which has suffered catastrophic damage.
St Helens will also wear special warm-up tops ahead of their clash with Warrington on Friday. They will wear a Tongan flag on their jerseys for the match. The club will also have plenty more Tongan-themed activity going on at The Totally Wicked Stadium.
Hopoate said: “The country is in a rebuild. Things aren’t how they used to be there but it is on the rebuild.
“Us Tongans are very resilient and strong-minded people. I’ve no doubt they are getting together over there and rebuilding the nation.
“The amount of support has been overwhelming, especially for the people back in Tonga to receive things we are sending over there.
“With myself, Koni (Konrad Hurrell) and Iggy (Agnatius Paasi) and Kristian (Woolf) being the coach of the Tongan rugby league team, to see the support the club has shown and the boys, it has has been very appreciated by us and something we are grateful for.
“There is a lot of stuff to rebuild but we are sending over a lot of gear to put a lot of smiles on the faces back there.
“The kids love the Tongan rugby league team, they love the sport of rugby league and this is a small token we can do to put smiles on faces, particularly the kids.
“Last week we played in Hull and there were even some Tonga flags that fans were holding. Little things like that, we are grateful and respectful to see the kindness of people bringing the Tongan flags there so it was awesome.”
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Hopoate was born and raised in Australia but is Tongan heritage. He made his international debut for Tonga in 2017, winning 11 caps to date.
The 29-year-old will be hoping to play his second World Cup this autumn.
He said: “It is an exciting time. As a professional rugby league player you want to be part of the international competition.
“What better way to showcase that than by playing in a World Cup? The last World Cup was a surreal experience and one that I’ll never forget. Hopefully this one we can go one better.”