Dogs ‘stronger without Hopoate’ in final

Will Hopoate’s decision to sit out Canterbury’s NRL elimination final against Penrith is a boost to the struggling Bulldogs rather than a blow, according to Panthers coach Anthony Griffin.

Hopoate will sit out Sunday’s Allianz Stadium sudden death clash due to his religious beliefs.

Brett Morris will fill the custodian role. The NSW and Australia representative starred at the back last year after his move from St George Illawarra.

He is yet to play there this year, but Griffin is very wary of what Morris can offer in the Dogs No. 1 jersey.

“He is a great player Brett Morris and a great fullback, I don’t think that hurts them at all,” Griffin said.

“No disrespect to Will but it is an example of the depth and versatility the Dogs have.

“They can replace Will Hopoate with a Test player like Brett Morris at the back (and) it gives him the freedom to run a bit more there and he is very dangerous.

“Certainly it make their side a lot stronger at this time.”

Tyrone Phillips has been named on the wing for Morris.

Sam Perrett is considered an outside chance of returning from a neck injury for the Dogs.

Canterbury welcome back interchange forward Sam Kasiano from a two-match ban.

Penrith have named the same side which enjoyed a big win over Manly in their final regular season fixture.

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