St Helens pull off Will Hopoate coup

Drew Darbyshire

St Helens have signed Tonga star Will Hopoate on a two-year deal from the 2022 season.

The 29-year-old centre or full-back will join the reigning Super League champions from NRL side Canterbury Bulldogs.

Hopoate – who has made 172 NRL appearances for Manly, Parramatta and Canterbury – has won 11 caps for Tonga and captained the nation in the 2017 World Cup. He has also represented New South Wales five times in State of Origin.

Hopoate said: “I am very happy and excited to be making the move to St Helens and to play for such a proud and historic club. I have never been to the UK before and I am excited to be a part of it all.

“I had option to sign for club’s in the NRL, but I have always wanted to play in the Super League and a strong club like St Helens meant I just couldn’t turn it down.

“I have been coached by ‘oolfie before for Tonga and that was a big reason why I made the decision. I know him as a person and as a coach and his values and standards that he sets is something I want to buy in to.

“The recent success the Saints have had and the history of the club over the years shows it is a big and powerful club and I am just grateful that they showed in interest in me and I am just happy to be a part of it next year.”

Saints coach Kristian Woolf said: “Will is a guy I know extremely well. He has played for Tonga since 2016 and captained Tonga in the past too which shows what a strong character he is.

“If I go back to 2019 and Tonga played against Great Britain and Australia and he was one of our best players against two top quality teams on the world stage which gives you an idea of the quality we are getting.

“He has the ability to play in the centres, but he has versatility too. He has made a name for himself at full-back and so will be a great support to Jack Welsby. He has also played at six for Tonga as well so that versatility and quality is going to be invaluable for us.

“From a personal point of view, he is not just a good player, but is a great bloke and will fit into the community and club really well.”