Storm ‘Not Spooked’ By Round 25 Defeat

Melbourne - Ryan Hinchcliffe1By STEVE MASCORD

MELBOURNE players deny they were spooked by Manly a fortnight ago and insist they go into Friday night’s clash with South Sydney confident they can match any of the seven remaining teams.

The Sea Eagles’ 28-8 win over the world champs in round 25 stunned the NRL and Craig Bellamy’s men did little to restore faith by struggling to a 23-22 golden point win over Gold Coast last Saturday.

But the suggestion the Sea Eagles went to a new level a fortnight ago which other sides can’t possibly match is flat-out wrong, according to Storm stars.

“It wasn’t so much a shock, it was more a wake-up call for us,” said back rower Ryan Hinchcliffe.

“We know that if we play our best football, we’re quite capable of beating anyone. We knew what Manly would come out and do to us and we just didn’t handle it. They didn’t do anything that they haven’t done before.”

Fellow back rower Ryan Hoffman was similarly defiant, saying: “Finals are a completely different part of the season and we go into this part confident.

“Manly played better than us. We didn’t go in with the right attitude. If we play them again, we’re going to have to shape up, just like next week. We’re going to have to show up with a great attitude.

“I don’t think they’re going to do anything that is going to surprise us too much. We play them all year. I think we get a fair idea.”

Hinchcliffe even admitted a soft build-up to the Manly clash may have taken its toll.

“We’d most probably come through a few games like in Canberra, where we scored a lot of points and weren’t really tested, Parramatta (we won) by 60 points and sometimes those games aren’t that good for you….

“You’re not really tested in those hard areas and I think Manly really tested us with how hard they ran the ball and how hard they got off the line.

“They’re a very physical side. Their kick-chase was very good. They just did all the little things a lot better than us and we knew that’s what they were going to do. We were caught out, we for some reason didn’t handle it very well.

“I thought we improved (against Gold Coast). “

And the tactic of Cooper Cronk kicking for Justin O’Neill, with Billy Slater coming through to capitalise, is set to get plenty more air time over the next month. Winger O’Neill tendered the best aerial display of the season at the weekend.

“It’s something we work on each week,” said Hinchcliffe. “I guess it comes down to how each team defends, whether their defender’s up in the line or whether he’s back. Cooper sees that. If the winger’s up, he kicks it over his head, if he’s back, they’ll just run it.

“So it’s a week-to-week thing. They’re practicing it each week.

“He’s a great athlete, Juzzy, and when he’s got his game on, he’s very effective for us and it’s great to see he’s doing that well this time of year. It’s a big play in big games, especially the way teams defend up and in these days.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

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Hoffman Tips Storm Team-mates As Maroons’ Next Gen

Ryan Hoffman/wikipedia
Ryan Hoffman/wikipedia

By STEVE MASCORD

MELBOURNE and NSW back-rower Ryan Hoffman disputes claims that Queensland is headed for an Origin slump because of its aging squad – citing two Storm team-mates as evidence of the Maroons’ continued vitality.

While Mal Meninga’s men are favourites to seal an eighth successive series victory over the Blues at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday, there is a popular argument that when the likes of Cameron Smith (30), Bill Slater (30), Cooper Cronk (29), Johnathan Thurston (30) and Justin Hodges (31) exit the scene, there will be a dearth of quality replacements.

“Everyone was saying ‘Queensland, where are they going to pick their side from?’ ten years ago,” Hoffman tells Fairfax Media.

“It was supposed to be a State Of Origin crisis. They found players. They’ll find some good players.

“There’s one like Willie Cambers, he’s ready to come in. Justin O’Neill … they’re very talented players. Willie’s been outstanding and Justin O’Neill, you need that bloke with finishing ability.

“And both of them are very talented defenders. When the time comes, they’ll be ready for Origin but hopefully it’s not for a few years yet!”

Chambers and O’Neill will form the cornerstone of the Storm side that faces its 2012 grand final opponent, Canterbury, at ANZ Stadium this afternoon.

Hoffman continued: “(Queensland have) blooded a few this year with (Chris) McQueen, (Josh) Papalii, (Daly Cherry) Evans.

“It’s good to see the talent coming through in NSW too. A bloke like Boyd Cordner, he’s 21, he looks like an Origin player already.”

Despite the Blues losing the previous clash by 20 points, Hoffman says NSW “draw our confidence from that defence in the first half.

“Queensland camped, and stayed a few nights, down our end in that first half. We defended quite well to hold them out.

“We watched some tape and found out there’s some opportunities there if we stick to what we do well. We gave them too many opportunities (though).”

Canterbury have regained the services of halfback Josh Reynolds after he was released from NSW camp on Friday, with Joel Romelo likely to miss out. It’s uncertain if Romelo will go back to the bench or be one of three players omitted from the squad named by coach Des Hasler on Tuesday.

The Storm report no changes, although it is uncertain if rookie Ben Hampton will spend more time at fullback or in the halves. Junior Sau and Tim Glasby are the likely bench omissions

Referee Gavin Badger is an injured withdrawal, with Gerard Sutton his replacement.

Teams for the match, which kicks off at ANZ Stadium at 3.05pm, are:

CANTERBURY: Ben Barba; Mitch Brown, Tim Lafai, Krisnan Inu, Sam Perrett; Josh Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson; Greg Eastwood, Tony Williams, Frank Pritchard, Sam Kasiano, Michael Ennis (c), Aiden Tolman. Res: Dene Halatau, Josh Jackson, James Graham, Dale Finucane, Tim Browne, Martin Taupau, Joel Romelo (three to be omitted)

MELBOURNE: Justin O’Neill; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Maurice Blair, Mahe Fonua; Brett Finch, Ben Hampton; Slade Griffin, Tohu Harris, Kevin Proctor, Bryan Norrie, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jordan McLean, Junior Moors, Siosaia Vave, Mitch Garbutt.

Referees: Gerard Sutton/Alan Shortall.

Filed for: SUNDAY AGE

Hoffman Says Smith Is The Best He’s Played With

Melbourne - Cameron Smith2By STEVE MASCORD

MELBOURNE stalwart Ryan Hoffman says Cameron Smith is the best exponent of rugby league he has play alongside and is adamant neither the Storm nor their captain will be affected by the looming saga surrounding his future.

The 30-year-old Australia skipper is off contract at the end of next year. On Sunday morning, a story appeared saying he would throw himself on the open market next season rather than commit himself to the club.

Later that night, after his 250th game for the world champions, he appeared to contradict himself by saying he wanted to bring up the 300 in Melbourne colours – a feat that would require him to re-sign with the club.

“I suppose the best compliment you could give anyone is that they are the first bloke, if you were in a team, you’d want to play with,” said Hoffman, who has played alongside some of the greats since making his representative debut in 2006.

“And Cameron’s definitely that. I class him as the best player I’ve ever played with and I know there’s some pretty good company I’ve played with over the years.

“But Cameron Smith is, I suppose, the ultimate footballer. He can do every facet of the game and doesn’t get flustered doing it.

“I’ve been with some good captains – Steve Kearney, Robbie Kearns – but I think Cameron stands above because of his consistent performances. It’s a ‘follow me’ attitude.”

With Craig Bellamy and Cooper Cronk in recent years keeping fans guessing over their futures at a club that has been stripped of two premierships and recently changed owners, the Storm are well practiced at insulating themselves against controversy.

“Nothing is going to phase him,” said Hoffman. “We’ve been through tough times at this club and he’s been the one who’s stood tall every time.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal issue or a team issue, you know it’s not going to affect his rugby league.

“Obviously we want him to stay. We want him to become the first player to play 300 games for the Melbourne Storm and hopefully he can.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Hoffman Wants Father And Son Rule In NRL

Ryan Hoffman/wikipedia
Ryan Hoffman/wikipedia

By STEVE MASCORD

HE would never dream of playing for the same state as his dad but NSW and Melbourne forward – and new parent – Ryan Hoffman wants rugby league to introduce the father and son rule at club level.

After a four-year break from State Of Origin football, Hoffman lines up for the Blues against a Queensland side featuring Storm team-mates Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith at ANZ Stadium next Wednesday night.

Rugby league has introduced a father-and-son rule at interstate level this year, allowing players to apply to represent the same state as their father if they do not qualify in any other way.

Hoffman’s dad Jay made three appearances for Queensland in 1979 and 1980.

“That was pre Origin but I wouldn’t want to play for somewhere I’ve never lived and don’t have any affinity to,” he said.

“I’m NSW all the way – even though I did play Queensland 19s because that was when Melbourne was with Brissie Norths and because I played a couple of games for Brissie Norths I was Queensland eligible.

“I think it’s a great rule, though. It works well in the AFL and I think they should bring it into the NRL. Why not?

“It would be great. You look at Josh Morris and Brett Morris at the Saints – there’ve been plenty of fathers and sons play for the same club. You want to see that, you want to see kids coming through.”

The father and son rule has been around in various guises in Australian football since 1949. If it was introduced in the NRL, the Storm may have picked up a new recruit last Wednesday.

That’s when Hoffman’s wife Mel gave birth to the couple’s first child Zackary. Ryan says it would have been ideal if there had been a Melbourne Origin game this year.

“It would have been perfect with the bub being born last week,” he said.

“My only focus for the first couple of days was about the little fella but now I’m in camp, I’ve got a job to do. We’ll get some time off over the weekend and hopefully I’ll be able to duck back and say hello.

“In terms of NSW winning the series, it’s great to have two games up here in Sydney.”

Hoffman senior spent a year at Wigan in the wake of the 2010 salary cap crisis but tells Fairfax Media: “I never gave up on rep footy.

“One of the reasons I came back was to play rep footy, along with winning a premiership. I knew I could still do it. It was just a matter of me going out and proving I could.

“I put in a lot of hard work.”

Filed for: THE AGE

Jesse Bromwich Set To Become Dominant Prop

Melbourne - Jesse BromwichBy STEVE MASCORD

TEAM-mates have warned that giant Kiwi Jesse Bromwich’s powerhouse try in the World Club Challenge is but a glimpse of the havoc he’ll wreak on the NRL this year.

The 193cm, 110kg Bromwich ripped the clash with Leeds wide open on Friday night by beating four defenders on a 20-metre run to the line just after halftime, putting the Storm on course for their 18-14 win at Headingley.

“Jesse has come on in leaps and bounds since last year and I think playing the Test match has given him a heap of confidence,” said back rower Ryan Hoffman.

“I think he’s building on the way he finished last year. He’s just got to build on his game. He works very, very hard on it and if he keeps going the way he is, he’s going to be great player for us.”

Bromwich rated the try alongside one he scored in last year’s preliminary final against Manly.

“I don’t know what happened there, I just got lucky,” he said. “But it’s up there as one of the best tries I’ve got, along with the one last year in the prelim. It was a good feeling.

“I just remember hearing Cooper (Cronk) outside me and the next minute I was sliding over the tryline. I was stoked.”

Bromwich and another tryscorer on Friday, 21-year-old debutant Tohu Harris, were each discovered by the late Storm recruitment manager, Darren Bell.

“I get on good with (Harris),” said Bromwich. “He’s been training with us for two years now. I’ve known him for a while and he played well – I think he’s going to be a good player for this club, hopefully for a very long time.

“(Bell) was very good at his job and it is a nice little reward for him if he’s looking down on us. It’s always nice to have another Kiwi in there too.”

Bromwich’s brother Kenny made the trip to England but went home early to take part in a lower grade trial.

“He got injured in training a couple of weeks ago and hasn’t played a game yet,” Jesse explained. “It would be pretty special playing alongside my little bro.

“Mum and Dad would be stoked and so will I.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK