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Sea Eagles hooker Manase Fainu.

Young Manly hooker Manase Fainu has found a sympathetic ear and life coach in former Sea Eagles winger John Hopoate.

For a footballer trying to plot a path through rugby league, Hopoate might seem like an odd choice as a guide for the straight and narrow. He has had several brushes with officialdom both as a player in the 1990s-early 2000s for both Manly and the Wests Tigers, and as a junior coach.

But in Fainu's case, he virtually owes his NRL career to Hopoate Snr. 

Unwanted at Parramatta for their Harold Matthews side, it was Hopoate who helped him overcome the disappointment. At the time Fainu was playing with his sons in the junior grades.

"I got dropped from them. They didn't want me [Eels]. I was devastated. He told me to come over here and play a trial," he said after Sea Eagles training this week as Manly attempt three wins a row this weekend, when they travel to Newcastle.

Knights v Sea Eagles - Round 5

"A bit of a point to prove to them," Fainu added, referring to the Eels although Manly doesn't meet Parramatta until round 18.

But Fainu has already shown his credentials. He captained the Sea Eagles Under-20s side to the 2017 premiership. He made his NRL debut in 2018 and has scored three tries in his three games so far this year. 

"He's helped me a lot, "Fainu said of Hopoate. "We talk more about off-field situations now and keeping out of trouble."

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Former Manly winger John Hopoate
Former Manly winger John Hopoate ©NRL Photos

"Stay out of trouble. Stay away from girls."

It is a work in progress. Fainu appeared in Fairfield Local Court last year on a charge of recording a sexual encounter, without the woman's knowledge, and then posting it on social media without her consent.

He pleaded guilty, showed genuine remorse, and was placed on a good behaviour bond. It was an occasion that he lent on Hopoate to talk things through.

"He's been through everything. I've known him since I was a young. He grew up with my mum and dad," Fainu said.

For more on-field advice, Fainu has turned to new coach Des Hasler and his hooking partner Api Koroisau.

"They got me rolling into a good start from the pre-season," he said.

"Des has worked on my personal game – how I play and how he wants me to play. Things like footwork and getting out and engaging markers.

"Api helps me a lot. He's been helping me from day one since I moved up into first grade. Even when he was injured on the sidelines he was telling me 'you can do this', 'you can do that'.

"We're more like brothers. We talk about all we've got to work on outside of footy too."

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