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

NRL round seven: MELBOURNE 28 WARRIORS 18 at AAMI Park

By STEVE MASCORD

VETERAN coach Warren Ryan called it “a try for the ages” – and it kept alive Melbourne Storm’s bid to complete an unbeaten run which will be remembered for ages.

The Storm’s bid for their 15th consecutive win, and edge closer to the record of 19 by the 1975 Eastern Suburbs side, looked doomed when they trailed the Warriors at AAMI Park last night 18-16 with nine minutes left.

But centre Will Chambers made a break deep in his own half  and finished if off himself after a pass near halfway by Cooper Cronk after before Cameron Smith goaled from the sideline to edge the premiers back in front.

“I just saw a bit of space down there and thought I’d try my luck. I actually thought it was Billy inside but it was Cooper,” Chambers said.

Billy Slater then scored a sizzling try from a scrum to make sure of it in front of a 25,480 Anzac day crowd

A thrilling first half concluded with Warriors winger Bill Tupou crossing in the corner within seconds of the siren sounding, the conversion waved away to leave the scores at 10-10.

Each side made late changes for the Anzac Day clash, Justin O’Neill coming into the centres for Melbourne’s Junior Sau and the Warriors also omitting a participant in last Saturday’s Tonga-Samoa Test, Glen Fisiahii.

Melbourne were the first to breach the opposition defensive line, with Slater slicing through but the Warriors big contingent in the capacity crowd roared its approval when the Aucklanders scored first.

Video referees Steve Clark and Justin Morgan had to make sure there had not been a knock-on in the air before back rower Ben Henry claimed a bomb to plunge over, with halfback Shaun Johnson adding the extras.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy would have been pleased Chambers hit back at 11 minutes but less impressed that the dual-code star ignored supports inside and out before touching down off a Cronk cutout pass.

Captain Cameron Smith converted for 6-6 and Matthew Elliott’s men went on to blow chances on each side of the field when Ngani Laumape and Tupou were unable to take passes when faced with clear air.

A hit from Kevin Locke jolted the ball from Mahe Fonua’s grasp just as he was about to score in the corner at 30 minutes but he soon made good on his mistake by following up his double for Tonga the previous week with another touchdown.

After Laumape spilled a Gareth Widdop bomb on one side, Fonua scrambled over on the other for 10-6.

Five-eighth Widdop executed a magnificent ankle-tap of a flying Johnson just before halftime but it was to no avail as Tupou negotiated a narrow corridor for a touchdown which could not be converted.

The deadlock was broken 13 minutes into the second half, visiting fans cheering home Johnson on a 60 metre run to the line which finished with a converted try between the posts.

Melbourne had managed just five wins from their last 11 starts against the Warriors, who had fallen to a second half collapse in their previous start against Canberra.

The Warriors’ chests were briefly puffed out – but the lead was short-lived, however.

A couple of minutes later, Cronk kicked into the right corner and the Warriors defence seemed to have the bouncing Steeden well-covered.

But the kick bisected the two scrambling Aucklanders and bounced almost miraculously into the arms of Storm winger Sisa Waqa, who bagged his second try of the year.

The conversion tied the scores in an epic struggle, 16-16

Johnson’s 77th minute penalty goal kicked from around 15 metres to the left of the souther posts, edged the Aucklanders in front once more.

After another superb display, Cronk gave credit to the decisive tryscorer, “We’ve got some speed out there and Will played fantastic tonight”

“It just comes [down] to the intensity of our training”.

Warriors captain Sam Rapira remained positive despite the loss, saying “it’s there for us but we keep bringing ourselves undone with silly errors”.
MELBOURNE 28 (W Chambers 2 M Fonua B Slater S Waqa tries C Smith 4 goals) bt WARRIORS 18 (B Henry S Johnson B Tupou tries S Johnson 3 goals) at AAMI Park. Referees: M Cecchin/H Perenara. Crowd: 25,480.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD