Canterbury veteran Will Hopoate returns from an eight-week injury layoff keen to show new coach Trent Barrett that he is the club‘s long-term fullback.
Hopoate hasn’t played since hurting his ankle in round 7, but after an intense rehabilitation he is ready to revive his season against the Warriors on Sunday.
He hasn’t heard from new coach Trent Barrett yet, but he desperately wants to secure the No.1 jumper with a cast of teammates vying for the position.
Dallin-Watene Zelezniak and Nick Meaney have both played fullback in Hopoate’s absence while Canterbury are reportedly in the mix to secure Penrith flyer Charlie Staines, who has been given permission to negotiate with rival clubs.
“To be honest, it feels like everyone is signing here next year,” Hopoate joked about Canterbury’s proposed recruitment under Barrett.
“All I can do is try and prove myself for next season.
“I would prefer to play back there (at fullback), but I haven’t spoken to Trent about the plans moving forward for next year.
“He still has a job at Penrith, but I’m sure he will sit down with the team and individuals to get a gauge on what he wants.
“I can play multiple positions as well, but we’ll just see what happens.
“I understand that form is everything in this game, but I’d like to play for as long as I can.”
Still grinding.#proudtobeabulldog pic.twitter.com/2PAWr5fNHb
It has been a challenging and crazy season for Hopoate, who is contracted at Canterbury until the end of 2022.
During his eight-week injury lay-off he witnessed his Bulldogs struggle, prompting coach Dean Pay to be sacked for Barrett from 2021.
“Yeah, it has been a unique experience this year,” he said.
“It is definitely something that I haven’t come across in my career, but all that stuff was out of my control and I couldn’t dwell on it too much.
“All I could control was getting my ankle right and playing the best footy that I can and that has been my focus.”
For Hopoate, it is a challenge that starts with the Warriors at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
He concedes his match fitness will be rusty after an extended period on the sideline, but he aiming to play 80 minutes at fullback.
“That is the plan – hopefully my lungs can hold up,” he said.
“We will see what happens, but I’m good to go.
“I’ve done a lot of rehab and running, so I feel ready and confident.”
Hopoate hasn’t enjoyed watching the Bulldogs battle from the sidelines, so he is hoping to be a good-luck charm in his return against the Warriors.
“It has been tough, especially last week to claw our way back (against the Tigers) and then to lose right at the end hurts,” he said.
“Hopefully, we can do one better than last week and win.”
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