Bulldogs fullback Brett Morris has welcomed his club's recruitment of former Eel and Sea Eagle Will Hopoate, because club mentor Des Hasler – Hopoate's coach in his first two seasons of NRL – will get the best out of him.
Hopoate, who has been training on his own since his time at the Eels came to an end, will have some catching up to do but will be a key player for Canterbury next season, according to Morris.
Hopoate debuted under Hasler at Manly in 2010, playing three games. In 2011 he played a full season, made his State of Origin debut and won a grand final, scoring four tries in the finals series.
But after a two-year Mormon mission he returned to the NRL in 2014 with Parramatta and in two seasons since has struggled to recapture his best football, despite adding five more Origin caps to the one he earned in 2011.
Hasler used Hopoate at wing, centre and fullback in 2011 but a return to fullback in 2015 was unsuccessful, with Hopoate tipped to take a centre spot vacated by Tim Lafai in 2016.
Morris described the recruitment of the 23-year-old as "a great signing".
"He's a wonderful young player. You've got to remember that he's still very young. He's played a lot of rep footy, he's played in big games, he's played in finals so he knows what it's all about," Morris told NRL.com at the launch of the 2016 Dick Smith Auckland Nines on Tuesday.
"Des has always brought out the best in Hoppa. He's certainly one of the key players for us moving forward."
Hopoate scored 14 tries in 19 games for Manly in 2011 but just seven tries in 38 games for the Eels in the past two seasons, looking a yard of pace short of where he was in his breakout season.
Morris said Canterbury does plenty of speed work and if Hopoate can pick up a bit of extra pace he would be even more dangerous.
"We do a fair bit of speed work at the Dogs and 'Hop' is one of those guys who's a strike player. If you add a yard of pace he'll be even deadlier and I think he's got a little bit of work to do, not having gone back to training with Parra so he's been doing a little bit of work by himself and he still looks in good condition.
"He's got a bit of work to do before Christmas and then the start of the season but I'm sure he'll be ready to go Round 1."
Morris said he spoke to Hopoate on Monday – the day the signing was announced.
"He's very excited. When you go to a new club everything's new, you meet new people and new faces so he's very excited and grateful for the opportunity," Morris said.
While Hopoate may be in line to make his club debut in February at the Auckland Nines, it is unlikely he will be joined by Morris, who is still in the rehab group after off season knee-surgery.
"At the moment I'm in rehab so I'm just trying to get my injury right from last year," Morris said.
"If there's a chance I can play [Nines] I'll put my hand up but the biggest thing is I have to get myself right before that happens.
"I had a knee operation at the end of the year. It's certainly on track for the start of the season but there's still a bit of work to do before I get back out there training with the boys."
This article first appeared on NRL.com