Josh Hoffman and Ben Hunt will start in the halves for Brisbane but expect Ben Barba to also spend time at second receiver. Copyright: Shane Wenzlick/NRL Photos Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
An off-season of conjecture and contract speculation has been put to bed with Josh Hoffman a shock selection at five-eighth for the Broncos' Round 1 clash with the Bulldogs on Friday night.
Hoffman will partner incumbent halfback Ben Hunt in the halves, while Daniel Vidot, Martin Kennedy and Todd Lowrie are all poised to make their Broncos debuts.
Generally noted for his explosive speed and power, Hoffman has never before been selected at five-eighth in 89 NRL games to date but halves partner Hunt is confident he has the skills to adapt quickly to his new role and make it his own on a permanent basis.
“I think he’ll go well, he’s been doing a bit of training there at the moment,” said Hunt. “He played a little bit there in the trial in New Zealand. He’s a great player and he’ll do well anywhere we put him in our team.
“If 'Hoffy' plays really well it will be a long-term thing. I think we’ll just see how it goes this week and try and build on it from that.”
Hoffman isn’t renowned for his organisational skills and it’s likely the conductor’s role will fall to both Hunt and hooker Andrew McCullough.
“He’ll be better served as a support player, runner-of-the-ball type of five-eighth,” Hunt said.
Ben Barba has been named to make his Broncos debut against his former club at fullback but it is almost certain that he and Hoffman will interchange positions at the back and at second receiver throughout the game.
Captain Corey Parker is excited at the prospect of a Broncos attack where both Barba and Hoffman are heavily involved.
"That's something the coaching staff have got to talk about but they're both great fullbacks, they're both great players no matter where they are and in particular they're both great attackers," Parker said.
"It's going to be good having them attacking for us and if they were to switch I don't see it being a drama."
The loss of Peter Wallace, Scott Prince and Corey Norman in the off-season weighs extra pressure on the shoulders of Hunt and McCullough when it comes to organising the Broncos attack but Hunt – who started the final seven games of 2013 at halfback – pointed to some of the experienced forwards to lighten the load.
“I guess it does put more pressure on us, but 'Cozza' (Corey Paker) and Sammy (Thaiday) will take a bit of the load as well. They are good ball players themselves as front-rowers and they’ll guide us around the park,” Hunt said.
Hunt is likely to play a roving role around both sides of the field, although Hoffman’s inclusion at No.6 won’t end the conjecture surrounding Brisbane’s halves dilemma.
A below average performance by the Kiwi international would leave coach Anthony Griffin scratching his head and searching for another five-eighth option.
However, Hunt is hoping for some continuity in the halves after making the halfback position his own after a stellar performance against the Cowboys in Round 20 last season, a position he kept until the end of the year.
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