Hopoate should stay at fullback: Morris
After missing the first four months of the 2016 season, Canterbury fullback Brett Morris exploded into form in his first game before declaring his replacement should keep the spot for the rest of the year.
Will Hopoate – recruited from the Eels over the off-season as a utility back – became the club's first-choice fullback due to an ongoing knee injury to Morris, and has made such a good fist of things Morris said Hopoate couldn't be moved out of that position.
The former Sea Eagle – who made his club and Origin debuts as a teenager while playing on the northern beaches under Hasler – struggled to regain his best form at Parramatta on returning from a two-year Mormon mission, including a spell at fullback, but has been a revelation at fullback for the Dogs this year back under Hasler's tutelage.
Morris said his return via the wing was as much about building up his match fitness as anything but praised his club's new No.1.
"The way that Hoppa's playing I don't think you can move him to be honest," Morris said immediately after his hat-trick heroics helped his side to a big 40-14 win over Brisbane on Saturday night.
"He's playing outstanding footy for us at the moment and certainly with the players that we've got this year we've changed a little bit from last year so I'm still learning our plays that involve the fullback.
"To be honest even if I was to play fullback I'd probably be a couple of weeks away anyway. It's nice to get out there on the wing, get a bit of game fitness, get a bit of match fitness because obviously you can't simulate that at training."
Morris said Hopoate had been close to the club's best player so far this year.
"It's always nice when you lose a position and someone comes in and fills that position and plays well. It's great for the team morale and the way he's playing a lot of guys feed off the back of it," Morris said.
"Moving forward it's a headache for Des to have if he wants to change positions and personnel but it's a good headache for him to have."
That headache revolves around the imminent return of Morris's brother, centre Josh, from a groin strain. Winger Curtis Rona performed admirably filling in at centre on Saturday but Josh's return would most likely push out impressive rookie centre Kerrod Holland – who, aside from impressing at centre has also emerged as his club's No.1 goal kicker.
Whatever the strongest backline looks like, Morris said he is happy to play wherever is best for the team, and if that means staying on the wing for the remainder of the season he's happy to do that.
"I've always been a big fan that I play wherever's best for the team. I've played enough footy in a lot of different positions and know what's required in each position," he said.
"Personally it doesn't bother me where I play, I played on the wing tonight and I'm just a footy player. I go out there and enjoy the game of footy, go out there and play with my mates and when you win games like you win tonight it certainly helps."
Of his own arduous and delayed comeback, Morris admitted it had been frustrating having to watch on for so long, but praised the club's trainers and medicos for getting him back on the park.
"It's very frustrating. The last think you want to do as a player is be sitting on the sidelines… I had to do a lot of rehab to get back on the field," he said.
"It's good now, the load that I've been doing over the last couple of weeks has really adjusted to it and handled the load well so tonight was the first chance to test it out in a game environment and it's held up pretty good so that's a positive."
Morris praised head physiotherapist James Rahme and head conditioner Tony Grimaldi for their work in getting him up and running at full pace.
"I've got to give them a lot of credit to get me ready for today but the boys are playing some good footy of late and I'm just standing out there on the wing trying to do my best," he said.