J'maine Hopgood news rocks NRL in crushing blow for Eels and Maroons before Origin 3

Hopgood has been ruled out for the season with a back injury.

J'maine Hopgood has been ruled out for the season after undergoing lower back surgery in another blow to Parramatta's underwhelming NRL campaign. The Eels and Maroons forward hasn’t played since backing up for his club in Round 14 just five days after making his State of Origin debut for Queensland in the series opener.

A big shot from NSW's Liam Martin inflamed his pre-existing back injury during the Origin series opener earlier this month. The lock forward played restricted minutes in the loss to Canterbury five days after his Origin debut and hasn't featured in the NRL since.

Hopgood pulled up sore before the Eels' most recent game against the Sydney Roosters and was sent to see a specialist who deemed surgery to be the best course of action. Hopgood has since undergone a microdiscectomy - surgery to remove the bulging part of a disc - to fix sciatic pain aggravated in the Maroons' Game 1 win.

J'Maine Hopgood pictured
J'Maine Hopgood has been ruled out for the season with a lower back injury. Image: Getty

The Eels back-rower will now face at least 12 weeks on the sideline, meaning the only way he plays football again in 2024 is if the Eels make finals, which is incredibly unlikely as they would likely need to win nine of their last 10 games.

Hopgood's long-term absence is the latest in a string of blows for the Eels, who currently sit bottom of the ladder for the first time since 2018. He joins injured teammates Kelma Tuilagi, Bailey Simonsson and Ofahiki Ogden on the sidelines. While injuries to star players Mitch Moses and Clint Gutherson have worked against Parramatta this season, with the club's poor string of results seeing long-term coach Brad Arthur fired.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 10: J'maine Hopgood of the Eels runs the ball during the round 14 NRL match between Canterbury Bulldogs and Parramatta Eels at Accor Stadium, on June 10, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
The lock forward played restricted minutes in the loss to Canterbury five days after his Origin debut.

Despite the Eels having two disappointing seasons, Hopgood has been one of very few shining lights for Parramatta. He was the only Eels player selected for Origin in the series opener - with Moses selected for Game 2 - and has been averaging more than 100 metres per game for the second season running.

Eels five-eighth Dylan Brown, who dealt with back injuries early in his career, said Hopgood just needs to be patient and will come back better than ever. "You never know what's going on (with back injuries), one week it can change, one week you can feel amazing, next week you can't move," Brown said earlier this week.

"It's just so long and they can't give you a time for it. They can't be like six weeks and your back's going to be sweet. He tries to get in as much (training) as he can and almost gets in trouble doing so. He's still in high spirits."

Hopgood's injury also means he won't be able to return for the State of Origin decider. It is expected that Billy Slater will shake things up for Game 3, with most changes expected to be in the forward pack.

David Fifita was overlooked for Games 1 and 2 in favour of Jeremiah Nanai and Jaydn Su'a in the second row and is expected to earn a recall. Last weekend Fifita showed Slater what he was missing as he wreaked havoc in a dominant display in Gold Coast's 66-6 win over a woeful Warriors outfit. The 24-year-old ran for 195m and had 10 tackle breaks in a dominant display.


While competition for spots in the Maroons back-row is undeniably fierce, Nanai and Su'a could find themselves on the outer as could versatile Warriors forward Kurt Capewell and Dolphins veteran Felise Kaufusi, who failed to make any real impact off the bench for Game 2.

The size and power of North Queensland forward Heilum Luki could see him earn a call-up. While Selwyn Cobbo, who played Game 1 but was left out for Game 2, could return to the side. He has been named in the centres for the Broncos this weekend and the Maroons coach is sure to be watching him closely ahead of the Origin decider on July 17.

with AAP