There’s plenty of change at St Helens with a number of new signings settling in as key fixtures of the team who won the three-peat move on to pastures new.
Of those new signings, few were as exciting as the arrival of former NRL Champion Will Hopoate. The versatile back who enjoyed spells at Manly, where he won the NRL, Paramatta and Canterbury was the only new signing to be awarded with a squad number inside the first 13. He takes on the number three jersey most recently worn by Sydney bound Kevin Naiqama who ended his time at St Helens with a third Super League title, a brace of Grand Final tries and the Harry Sunderland Award.
The number three jersey holds great prestige at St Helens with Matt Gidley and Jamie Lyon both wearing it in the past leaving Hopoate with big shoes to fill.
This alongside moving to a new country makes the challenge of living up to the hype even tougher. However, he believes he and his family are getting settled in England quickly.
In an interview on The Saints Podcast with Stuart Pyke which can be watched in full by subscribing to Saints TV, Hopoate told Pyke: “I’ve been here for three weeks now, me, the wife and kids have adjusted to the time difference so it’s been good.
“We’re slowly getting around to different places. I’ve got four young kids so they’re adjusting to the cold. We hopped off the plan when we arrived here in England and one of my daughters was crying because it was too cold.
“We’re slowly getting used to it and we’re excited for the change.”
🎤 hear from new signing Will Hopoate as he sat down with our Saints Podcast host @stuartpykesport to discuss his move to the club, how his family are settling into life in St. Helens and his goals for the coming season.
Subscribers can watch the full video below 👇#COYS
— St.Helens R.F.C. (@Saints1890) December 11, 2021
In the interview, he also revealed that a former St Helens star helped nudge him towards a move to the Totally Wicked Stadium.
When asked about whether former St Helens man and Harry Sunderland Award winner Luke Thompson, whom he played alongside at Canterbury, had persuaded him to join the Saints, Hopoate said: “He [Luke Thompson] spoke very positively of the place once he got a whiff that there was interest from the club. He wasn’t trying to push me in any direction, he was just speaking about how the club was, how good the staff were and how they get your body and mind right, ready for games and being in a winning environment. That was good to hear from him.”
Keen to win things at St Helens and continue the amazing dynasty being built at the club at the moment, Hopoate stressed that for him the most important thing for him is how the team performs: “I like to think I’m a team first player. If the team’s going well naturally that means everyone else is going well individually.”
He also noted just how nice it’s been to train alongside international teammate and friend Konrad Hurrell. Hurrell announced himself to the league in 2019 with a try and a delicate assist against the Saints in Round Three of Super League in front of the Sky cameras in a Leeds shirt but now joins one of their biggest rivals.
After that strong start to life in England, he went on to secure consecutive places in the Super League Dream Team and win the Challenge Cup in 2020. However, 2021 ended up being a difficult year for the Tongan for one reason or another culminating in his departure as he takes on a one-year deal with the Saints alongside Hopoate whom he’ll battle with for a centre spot.
Speaking about Hurrell and the joys of being alongside him once again, Hopoate said: “Both being of Tongan heritage and playing a number of tests together for Tonga, there’s always that brotherly bond there and so it was good for me to come to a team and a new country and have a familiar face there, not only a familiar one but a funny one too.”