Will Hopoate has put his faith in Des Hasler to spur him back to his best after finally confirming his signing with Canterbury on a two-year NRL deal.
After weeks of rumours linking him to a move to Belmore, the former Parramatta star was officially unveiled by the Bulldogs on Monday.
The 23-year-old had been in limbo for most of the pre-season because of a protracted legal dispute with former club Parramatta.
The Dogs paved the way for Hopoate’s signing late last week when they released centre Tim Lafai, who has been linked with Penrith, St George Illawarra, Gold Coast and the Warriors.
Hopoate was drawn to Belmore by coach Hasler, who handed the NSW State of Origin representative his debut in 2010 during their time together at Manly.
Under Hasler’s mentorship, Hopoate rose to be one of the brightest young stars in the game, becoming the second youngest NSW representative and playing a leading role in the Sea Eagles’ 2011 grand final win.
After departing the NRL on a two-year Mormon mission, Hopoate returned to the rugby league via Parramatta in 2014 but failed to rise to the same heights.
Hopoate is now tasked with getting back to his best and will go into the new season under pressure to hold his place in Laurie Daley’s Blues side.
“It’s such a strong club and I’ve played with a few of the boys at Origin level and been mentored by Des in the past,” Hopoate said.
“There’s a number of reasons why I chose to be here and I’m excited for what lies ahead.
“(Hasler) knows how to coach and he’s got a good footy mind and mentality. I’m just going to be a sponge and soak as much up as I can.”
Hopoate’s recruitment bolsters the Dogs’ already strong backline, which includes Brett and Josh Morris, Josh Reynolds, Moses Mbye and Sam Perrett.
His arrival could prompt Hasler to move Brett Morris to the wing and play Hopoate at fullback.
After spending the last few months training by himself, Hopoate said he was focusing on pouring his energy into the pre-season and getting back to peak fitness for round one.
“Will is an exciting young player who has already achieved so much in the game,” Bulldogs chief executive Raelene Castle said.