ST HELENS won’t be rushed into replacing Will Hopoate.
The 31-year-old ex-NRL back has hung up his boots after two seasons at Saints – and representing Tonga in all three of their recent Tests in England.
He was brought to the Totally Wicked Stadium from Canterbury Bulldogs by former coach and current Tonga chief Kristian Woolf.
And this year, he proved valuable to Paul Wellens over the course of 19 appearances as a winger or centre, the first in the World Club Challenge triumph over Penrith Panthers Down Under.
Hopoate scored the last of his five tries for Saints in the 12-6 play-off semi-final defeat by Catalans Dragons in France.
Wellens has also lost talismanic hooker and captain James Roby and prop Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook to retirement, while bringing in hooker Daryl Clark from Warrington and second rower Matt Whitley from Catalans and turning winger Tee Ritson’s loan from Barrow into a permanent £20,000 move.
Saints, aiming to bounce back after losing their grip on the Super League title and ready to play Sione Mata’utia as a prop more often than in the second row, are keeping tabs on the NRL for any potential recruits, but insist they won’t make a panic move.
Chairman Eamonn McManus said: “We are very happy with our current recruits, and we have lots of good youngsters coming though – but we do have some cap space.
“We brought in (Queensland hooker) Moses Mbye (from St George Illawarra Dragons midway through this year) and he will be better having had a pre-season with us.”
Speaking to the St Helens Star, McManus continued: “We are still looking for a wing/centre – but we are not going to sign someone for the sake of it.
“Any signing must strengthen the squad, fit in and be a very good player – if they are not, then we are not going to sign them.
“We are prepared to play the waiting game on a good player at the right price.”
The first phase of players, minus those who had international commitments after the end of the season, will start pre-season training this week.