Hopoate's drought-breaker falls flat
Not since his rookie season in 2010 when he failed to score a try in his three games for the Sea Eagles has William Hopoate gone a year without scoring a try and plenty of his Bulldogs teammates were unhappy to see his drought end on Saturday.
Going into the second-last game of the season Hopoate had failed to score a single try in 16 starts this season but opened the scoring for Canterbury in the 14th minute and scored a second four minutes from half-time in his side's 26-14 win over the Titans.
Hopoate's failure to find the try-line stretched all the way back to Round 18 last season and after waiting 23 games to score another he told NRL.com that some of his Bulldogs teammates were disappointed that he'd finally crossed the stripe.
"All the boys were giving it to me all week," Hopoate said. "I don't think I've seen a team so angry that one of their teammates scored.
"They actually weren't too happy that I scored in a joking way but it was good to get across the line.
"I've personally just been frustrated that we haven't played our best footy and that we're not in the finals this year.
"That's been on the forefront of our minds – well my mind anyway – and it wasn't until it was brought up that I realised I'd better score soon hopefully."
Hopoate wasn't the only Bulldog to break his try-scoring duck for the season against the Titans with David Klemmer also scoring his first of the year but scoring tries has been a problem for the team as a whole for much of the season.
Rookie Marcelo Montoya is the only Canterbury player to have scored more than 10 tries this season but with 56 points in their past two games the Bulldogs have found an attacking spark that Hopoate attributes to a boost in confidence.
"Coming off the back of last week we're playing with a bit more confidence," Hopoate said of the 30-10 win over Manly, the first time they had scored 30 points in a game all season.
"It's a funny thing what it can do for a team. It's hard to put your finger on how you get it and how you lose it but I think we're trying to finish this year on the best note as possible.
"The disappointing thing is that we haven't played the type of footy that we're playing at the moment all season and now it's obviously too late.
"We have a long time to think about it before we kick off again in March 2018 but I'm excited where the club's going.
"Obviously we didn't have our best season this year but you've got to have the downs to enjoy the ups."
With the finals out of reach for the club for the first time since 2011 captain James Graham praised the way the side had responded over the past two weeks with very little to play for.
"All the excuses are there for us to not turn up but we're playing for different reasons and really proud of the effort today," Graham said.
"We were probably on the wrong side of the momentum in the second half and it was only two or three years ago we came up here in a similar situation - went out to 16-0 and ended up losing in extra time - so the boys had to hang in.
"You take the injuries into consideration – I looked at the left edge at one point and it was barely recognisable with those four lads playing there – and the boys really dug in and it's a credit to the character of a lot of our players and our team."