By STEVE MASCORD
JOSH Hoffman is said to have greeted reporters for his first media opportunity this year by saying “haven’t seen you guys for a while”.
The smiling 27-year-old Titans fullback was a favourite of reporters during his six years at the Broncos. The Mackay product was always co-operative and good for a quote – perhaps too much so in the eyes of his club, at times.
But things went sour at Red Hill. Not once, but twice. First, while he was away at the World Cup, club-mate Justin Hodges was quoted as saying he was not fullback material. Hoffman’s father Shane attacked Hodges on social media, calling him a “dog”.
Then the cousin of new Queensland rep Dane Gagai – and relative of Wendell Sailor, Ben Barba and Travis Waddell – was repeatedly photographed with Canterbury members of the Kiwis squad – and asked for a release.
There was a season of truce while the Broncos waited for Anthony Milford and Wayne Bennett to arrive – and Hoffman finally got the hell out of Dodge, although only an hour down the freeway.
During it all, Josh maintained an uncharacteristic silence in the mainstream media – even if his social media accounts remained entertaining. This year, he’s dressed up as superhero for the club website, posted Instagram videos to kill the time during the commute to and from training – but has been interviewed only briefly.
A-List meets Josh during a break in training at Burleigh Leagues Club, overlooking the Gold Coast Titans’ new training ground. New, because they were kicked out of a school facility when the drugs story broke earlier this year.
A couple of times, looking back over the past couple of years, Josh will use an expression like “this blew up in the media” … before going onto confirm the story concerned was more or less right. There’s much to catch up with since he last spoke in depth about pretty-much anything. We’ll not pussyfoot around….
HOFFMAN left Brisbane for Gold Coast this year with a season left on his contract. “I had the chance to go in and meet Wayne (Bennett). I didn’t really even have to say much. He sort of knew my position. He just said Darius was coming to the club and he wanted Darius to play fullback and he said ‘I know that’s your preferred position and I’m not going to hold you back from going out there and finding another opportunity’. In saying that, he said ‘you’re signed with the Broncos and you’re welcome to stay here and you’ve always got a club here’. He was really good like that. At the time, Canberra were in the mix and Ricky (Stuart) was chasing pretty hard I had a young family, I had a little girl and my wife as well and we were trying to decide on whether we wanted to move to Canberra. It was a little bit too far away considering my wife and her mother were very close. We wanted to stay somewhere … stay in Brisbane. And the Warriors were chasing as well.
“There was a little bit of talk and a little bit of interest (from rugby union) but I don’t think they pushed too hard on getting me over there. That would have been another thing I would have considered but I really wanted to stay and play rugby league. I felt like I had more to give to the game. I rang my manager up and he rang around and I said ‘what about Gold Coast, do you reckon they’d be keen?’ and he gave Neil (Henry) a ring and we set up a meeting and happy days.”
A YEAR earlier, Hoffman had asked for a release while at the World Cup. “I wasn’t sure where I was going to be in the future because of everything happening at the club and my positional changes with everywhere I was being moved. I just didn’t know where I was going to fit in the team and I felt like there was no certainty there at the club. I spoke to Hook (Anthony Griffin) and asked for a release … like I said to Wayne, if I could find other opportunities out there to play fullback. I guess things went a bit sour after that. I stayed at the club. The best thing for me is I didn’t go around kicking stones and dragging my lip on the ground and feeling sorry for myself.
THE matter came to a head when veteran Broncos centre Justin Hodges was quoted as saying Hoffman was not the answer for the club at fullback. “Coming from your own team-mate, you sort of … I know I was young at the time and I took it the wrong way and I understand where Justin was coming from; the Broncos were looking for someone who could ball-play, someone who could be another five-eighth and my game, it’s purely a running game. I like to bring the ball back hard and get as many metres as I can. That’s just what I do. At the time I took it as a personal attack and I got a bit upset after that. That was another thing that made me want to leave the club as well. Having your own team-mate say that, it’s made my confidence go down a bit.” But he never approached Hodges over the slight. “I didn’t want to cause drama over it because at the time we were trying to keep our season alive. I didn’t want to cause drama between team-mates.”
AT the World Cup, Hoffman was photographed with Bulldogs players repeatedly, leading to intense speculation he was headed to Belmore. “I was walking down the street in Manchester and I was with big Sammy (Kasiano) and Franky (Pritchard) and Greggy Eastwood and they were in my ear, telling me to come to the Doggies, you know? They were trying to get me over there. And I was like ‘boys, I’m still with the Broncos and I’ve still got two years left and this and that. Being stubborn boys, they just kept pushing and pushing. We eventually got a photo together and it got in the paper and I think the Broncos took it the wrong way and it was blown out of proportion. It was a bit hard being over in the UK and reading all this stuff on the website and being asked about it as well, getting attacked on Twitter from fans and that. It was pretty hurtful but there’s nothing you can do about that. Everyone’s got their opinions. “
HOFFMAN was overlooked for selection by the Kiwis at the end of the tournament and has not played for his father’s country since. “We played against Papua New Guinea and I did my shoulder and it was bothering me at the time. Steve (Kearney) knew I wasn’t 100 per cent but I was adamant I wanted to play. I guess he thought it was in the best interests of the team to play Kevin Locke. At the time, I was a bit disappointed, a bit angry about it because I would really have loved to finish the World Cup off playing in the finals but the boys really did well to get to the final.”
JOSH appears to be facing an up-hill battle to make the touring squad for England at the end of this season. “There’s a lot of competition for the fullback spot. Dallin (Watene-Zelezniak) has been playing a lot of fullback since (Matt) Moylan’s been out, he’s been going really well. And Roger (Tuivasa-Skeck) is the incumbent fullback at the moment. He’s been playing really good footy. There’s a lot of competition there and also in the backline as well. At this stage I’m just focusing on the Titans. If we can get some wins together, hopefully we can get to play in September.”
BUT since Hoffman signed on with the Titans, Aiden Sezer plus Nate Myles have left and Daley Cherry Evans announced he would not be joining, as originally agreed. DCE “It is a big loss for the club and something Neil’s going to have to shuffle around. I’d hate to be in his shoes right now, trying to figure out what he’s going to do for next year. But I guess in saying that we need to focus on this year. It was disappointing and sad to see Nate leave – such a great player with great experience. I really look up to him.’
Filed for RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK