NRL Trial Match - Panthers v Sharks
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 20: J'maine Hopgood of the Panthers is tackled during the NRL Trial Match between the Penrith Panthers and the Cronulla Sharks at CommBank Stadium on February 20, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Penrith Panthers young gun J'maine Hopgood has revealed he wants to stay with the club at the end of the 2022 NRL season.

The prodigiously talented middle forward, who played his junior football in Hervey Bay, has been with the Panthers since the start of the 2017 season where he progressed through the junior grades as part of the club's wildly successful pathways system which has now produced a premiership.

Progressing to a development deal in mid-2020, Hopgood went on to make his debut in Round 10 of the 2021 season and has been on the fringe of first-grade to begin 2022, playing from the bench in Round 3 against the Newcastle Knights after serving as 18th man against the St George Illawarra Dragons in Round 2.

Up against a stocked arsenal of middle forwards, led by Moses Leota, James Fisher-Harris and Isaah Yeo, but also including names like Matthew Eisenhuth and Spencer Leniu, Hopgood has struggled to find his way into first-grade on a regular basis, making just six appearances.

But that isn't stopping him from pushing hard for a spot on a long-term basis, playing both first-grade and NSW Cup last weekend.

Hopgood, who played for the Queensland under-20s team in 2019 alongside in the back row alongside future stars like Ronaldo Mulitalo, Tesi Niu, Murray Taulagi, Braydon Trindall, Kobe Hetherington, Ethan Bullemor and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, told The Western Weekender that while it's a big year for him being off-contract, he has no intentions of abandoning Penrith.

“I played five games last year and the goal for me this year is to get a few more games under my belt,” he said.

“Obviously coming off contract, that’s always a big thing as well. You want to be playing good footy whether that’s in first grade or reserve grade.

“It’s great that I got a game early on this year, so hopefully I can build off that momentum and get a few more games throughout the year.

“This club gave me the opportunity to play first grade, so it’s always going to be a home to me here.

“I spent the last four or five years here coming through the grades. Just the group of boys we have as well, the culture we have here… I love this club, I love the team and the boys. It would be an honour to be able to stay.”

Hopgood has been named on the bench for Friday night's Round 4 clash against the Panthers' 2021 grand final opponents the South Sydney Rabbitohs, however, he is at risk of losing his spot with the reported returns of James Fisher-Harris and Liam Martin to the side.