Will Hopoate on St Helens future, injuries & why he is loving life in England

Drew Darbyshire
Will Hopoate St Helens SWpix

Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix

Tonga star Will Hopoate is determined to show the St Helens fans the best of him in 2023 following an injury-hit debut campaign in England.

The 30-year-old linked up with the Super League champions as a huge signing ahead of last season. However, he was limited to just 12 appearances in the Red V due to injury.

But he says the off-season gave him a chance to let his body rest; and is raring to go in 2023. He will play his first game of the year on Saturday against St George Illawarra Dragons in a World Club Challenge warm-up match.

“I think time has been the biggest healing factor this time around,” Hopoate said.

“In the season, you injure yourself and you aim for a game to get back to. But because I did this in the World Cup at the end of last year, there have been no games to prepare for. Time has allowed me to take my time with the healing process.

“One thing for me heading into this Australia game is to test the hammy out. It’ll be good to get a hit out on Saturday night.

“When you go to a new club you want to gain the trust and respect of your team-mates, coaches and fans. I wasn’t able to do that a lot last year because of injuries for whatever reason.

“I was pretty fortunate the past few years but 2022 was hit by injuries, so hopefully that’s out of my system and fingers crossed I stay healthy this season.”

Will Hopoate on why he loves life in England

The former NRL star always had aspirations to play in Super League. But even he might be surprised with just how much he and his family enjoy life in English shores.

“Competing in the Super League was always something I wanted to do as a player,” he told Love Rugby League.

“I suppose I was a bit lucky that Saints came knocking on the door. I think I would’ve been silly not to have taken that opportunity having always wanted to play and live in England.

“For my family and I, we were excited to be in a new country and a new environment and culture with a new team. Because everything is so different from what we are used to, I think it’s made it exciting in a way for us.

“Getting to meet new people has also been a blessing for our family and we’ve made friendships that will continue when we eventually move back to Australia.”

What does the future hold?

Hopoate is out of contract at the end of the 2023 campaign. The Tongan says he would love to extend his time with St Helens beyond that.

“I’d love to,” Hopoate said. “It’s a great club with great people behind the scenes.

“My family, my wife and kids, have enjoyed the move to England with our church community, our rugby league community and our neighbours close by.

“It’s been a real eye-opener for us and it has been a wonderful change with the scenery, environment and culture.

“I’d love to stay at the club. But having said that, the club needs to do what is best for the club and pick players that are in form, so I’m hoping for a good season ahead.”

Will Hopoate: It’s an honour to play for Saints

Hopoate played a part in helping St Helens secure their fourth consecutive Super League title last season. And playing in such a special side is something Hopoate holds close to his chest.

“It’s definitely a privilege and it’s definitely something I don’t take for granted,” he added.

“Having been in the club and the system for only a year now, you can see why they’ve been successful in recent years.

“You’ve got your leaders at the top like Robes (James Roby) and Jonny (Lomax) who run through word of action. That just filters down to the rest of the team.

“I consider myself very blessed to come to a club in such a unique point of the club’s history. I’m very grateful.”

SAINTS: How St Helens can win the NRL pre-season challenge

World Club Challenge awaits

The Super League champions face their NRL counterparts in the World Club Challenge on February 18.

“A lot of the lads are under no illusion that this is no walk in the park,” Hopoate added.

“They are an exceptional team. They’ve gone back-to-back with players playing for New Zealand, Australia and Samoa in the World Cup.

“We are under no illusions it is going to be hard playing Penrith at Penrith. It doesn’t get any harder than that.

“I think both teams will be out to win this game. I think it’s a huge opportunity for both clubs. It’s something that doesn’t come around too often for players throughout their whole career. It’s a big game, it’s something we are trying to prepare the best we can for.”

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