Perrett ready to take fullback role

For the first time in 2016 the Bulldogs are set to take the field without star fullback Will Hopoate, who will miss Sunday's game against the Tigers – and the next two matches – on religious grounds. 

Hopoate has settled into his new club with ease, scoring six tries through the opening nine rounds, running for 1,289 metres and producing a competition-high six try saves. 

The man replacing him - Sam Perrett – is no stranger to the role having donned the No.1 jersey 66 times in his NRL career including the 2014 grand final loss to South Sydney.

The form of the Bulldogs veteran mightn't have reached the dizzying heights of the man he is set to replace, but Perrett's 2016 numbers are nothing to be sneezed at. The incumbent No.1 is level with Hopoate on six tries and leads the club with seven line breaks. 

The 30-year-old filled in at the back nine times last year with Brett Morris away on State of Origin duty or out through injury and is looking forward to the challenge that awaits him this weekend.  

"It's going to be pretty familiar to me. I guess I'll just run a little bit of rust out at training," Perrett said. 

"It's always comfortable being on the wing but it'll be good to get in the mix a lot more and get the hands on the ball.

"I love playing anywhere on the field. Those are the two positions I've played my whole career so I'm comfortable either or.

"I've been happy with how I've been going. There's a big task and a lot of work to do so I'll just be focussing as hard as I can to do my best." 

Bulldogs rookie Kerrod Holland said Hopoate's absence would be a blow but backed his right-edge partner to handle the pressure at the back. 

The seemingly unflappable centre has grown used to having Perrett on his outside and said he would miss having the Kiwis international's encouraging words in his ear. 

"He talks to me a lot during the game and before the game to settle you down. He's been a big influence on me," Holland said. 

"He's been great for me and he's been playing so well so it makes my job a hell of a lot easier. I'll just go out and do my job and Sammy will do his job for the team so it'll be all good.

"Hop's been outstanding with his form this year and it's something that we've just got to pick up. As a team we'll have to be better because he's definitely been one our best players." 

Five-eighth Josh Reynolds has played plenty of football with Perrett over the years and said there would be no risk of him faltering in his first game at the back since Round 26 last year. 

"Sam has been our fullback in and out for the last two years and for me as a half, it doesn't change too much," Reynolds said. 

"Our fullback role here you just have to pop up and support a fair bit. Will has been doing that and Sam is great at it too. 

"Not much fazes Sammy. He's come in this week and he's getting used to a bit of everything but you can tell it's not worrying him. He'll have some tough carries and I'm sure he'll set something up so I'm sure he'll be fine." 

State of Origin centre Josh Morris said the onus was on the back five to pick up the slack against the Tigers and was confident Perrett would handle the switch to fullback.  

"Will has probably been our best player over the first nine rounds so he is a big loss. It's blokes like me and a couple of the other outside backs who'll have to increase their work rate to make sure he's not too much of a loss," Morris said. 

"He (Perrett) is Mr Consistent and he's done the job there before for us. We've got all the confidence in Sam of doing that job."  

Morris revealed that his twin brother Brett – the side's first-choice fullback – was tracking well as he recovers from a knee injury that has prevented him from playing in 2016. 

"He's actually running and he's looking really good," he explained. 

"He just wants to get back on the field with the boys and get back in the blue and white and play some good footy. He's been in the rehab room since November and he probably doesn't know what a football looks like at the moment. 

"In terms of time frame I'm not too sure. He's keeping it close to his chest but hopefully we see him in the not too distant future. I think he's a lot happier with the way he's progressing this time around so that's definitely a positive."

This article first appeared on NRL.com