St Helens boss Paul Wellens has backed Will Hopoate for a strong end to the season, with the overseas recruit nearing the end of his current contract.
There is an option for the 31-year-old to remain at the Totally Wicked Stadium for 2024.
Hopoate has been struck by numerous injuries since his switch to Super League from the NRL, limiting him to just 12 appearances during his debut year in 2022.
The Tonga international did however feature in the 2022 Grand Final triumph over Leeds, as well later featuring in the World Club Challenge 13-12 victory over Penrith Panthers in Australia in February.
To date, Hopoate has already hit the same amount of games in 2023 than last year, having recently returned to action against Hull in Super League and later featuring on the wing in the 22-0 win over Castleford.
Wellens has no doubts of Hopoate’s quality and experience, having amassed 184 appearances in the NRL before his move to the Super League champions, and is backing the out-of-contract star for a strong second half of the season.
“Will has had some tough times which has been well documented since he’s been at the club,” Wellens admitted.
“He’s the most diligent professional. He does everything that’s asked of him in terms of getting his body right to play.
“His quality is undoubted and that shown particularly in the back end of last year, when we lost Lewis [Dodd], he was playing at full-back and Jack Welsby in the halves at times.
“His versatility, his experience is invaluable and it’s great to see him out there.”
Will Hopoate always wants to ‘give his best’ on the field
With clubs already well into their recruitment for 2024, out-of-contract players have had to pick up their game in the hope of earning a new contract beyond the current campaign, including the likes of Leeds star Blake Austin.
Hopoate sits in the same boat, and asked if that could be a motivation to finish strongly, Wellens responded: “Potentially.
“Different things motivate different players.
“Personally, I do think Will is a player who, regardless of the contract situation, when he goes out onto the field, he wants to perform his best.
“I don’t think you achieve what he has in the game approaching it any other way.
“I know Will is the type of guy when he’s on the field, he wants to give his best.”