Canterbury star Will Hopoate has attributed his early season NRL success to the grunt of the team’s forward pack.
The Bulldogs fullback has been one of the club’s best in consecutive wins to start the new season, crossing for tries in both games and showing why he was quick to re-unite with former coach Des Hasler at Belmore.
But the two-time premiership-winning coach isn’t the only one who can take the credit.
Asked how he has turned around his form at the Bulldogs, Hopoate told AAP: “Playing off the back of our forwards has definitely made my job a lot easier.
“It’s like any team – if the forwards are doing their job, then it makes it a lot easier for the backs.
“If they don’t do their work doing the hard yards in the trenches, then jersey numbers one to seven are powerless. Credit goes to our middle boys.”
Since returning to the game from a two-year Mormon mission in 2014, Hopoate struggled to reach the heights at the Eels that landed him his first NSW State of Origin jumper in 2011.
He also won a premiership under Hasler at Manly that year.
However the 23-year-old has shown glimpses of that form over the opening fortnight of the season, and said another factor was his familiarity with his old mentor.
“Understanding the structures and systems here at Canterbury has helped me a lot,” he said.
“There’s obviously a few tweaks from when I was there (at Manly). There’s a few similarities but a lot of differences as well. The game’s a lot more faster and physical than 4-5 years ago.
“I’m just adjusting to the calls and what Dessie wants us to do.”
Eels second-rower Tepai Moeroa says he’s not surprised Hopoate kicked off 2016 in strong fashion.
“It’s hard to come back from mission and just jump straight into NRL footy. He’s obviously worked very hard and he’s back to how he was playing a few years ago,” he said.