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Hopoate locked in for Sundays

Words: Alicia Newton‌, National Correspondent‌‌, ‌‌‌NRL.com

Canterbury Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle has confirmed fullback Will Hopoate will play in Sunday fixtures for the remainder of the NRL Telstra Premiership season.

Castle said after discussion with the Bulldogs board it was important from a business perspective the 25-year-old was made available heading into the back end of the NRL Telstra Premiership season.

Hopoate missed all Sunday clashes in 2016 through religious and faith reasons with the club allowing the Tongan international time off each week as part of the deal struck when he first joined the Bulldogs at Belmore in 2015.

"It's been a long discussion but at the end of the day this is a commercial decision from our perspective," Castle said on Tuesday.

"We think it's important for us given that we've got three Sunday games coming up and face losing players to Origin that we're strong in that period.

"We continue to support Will in his faith and something we're really proud of is who he is and what he stands for."‌

Hopoate fronted the media immediately after the announcement and said while the club's decision wasn't the best news for himself, he supported the reasons behind it.

"In a perfect world I still wouldn't play but we don't live in a perfect world and Canterbury are my employers who I respect very much," Hopoate said.

"I appreciate everything that Raelene and the club has done for me.

"I can completely understand where they're coming from and I'm just grateful they see me as part of their campaign and with fullback being a key position and Des [Hasler] really wanting me there, I take that as a compliment. 

"Moving forward the club has stated their intentions which I've got to respect as well."

Both parties confirmed negotiations with Hopoate were in the early stages for a contract renewal at Belmore, however the former New South Wales representative admitted should a rival club offer him a deal with the chance to avoid Sunday football, he'd consider it.

"We're in negotiations at the moment and I'd love to stay here at the club," Hopoate said.

"I've mentioned that to Des and it's just a matter of getting the finer details right where both parties are happy and come to an agreement.

"I would definitely take [playing elsewhere and not playing on Sundays] into consideration for sure because my belief is everything to me and if there is a way that's possible then I would look at it.

"There is no official yes or no but it's something we're looking at with my management."

Castle was hopeful of coming to an agreement with Hopoate and his management beyond 2017.

"It's a huge compliment to Will and unfortunate for him that he faced that injury earlier in the season," she said.

"He adds enormous strength and value to us not only from a playing perspective but from a leadership and cultural perspective.

"But for us the back end of the year is important and if we're going to sign Will to a contract next year then that would need to include playing on Sundays.

"At the end of the day we had an agreement [last year] but as we've gotten into this season and Will has entered negotiations for a new contract so we only felt it was fair for both sides."

Canterbury host their first Sunday afternoon clash of the season with the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium.

This article first appeared on NRL.com