Ben Blaschke, NRL.com
He has finally won back the preferred fullback spot he lost to Corey Norman at the start of the season and now Josh Hoffman says it is his responsibility to repay the faith by leading the Broncos back into the finals by the end of the season.
With his side needing to win every game to guarantee a top-eight berth, under-fire Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin finally wielded the axe last week – dropping Norman to Queensland Cup and relegating veteran halfback Peter Wallace to the bench following a run of six losses from their previous seven games.
The move worked wonders with the Broncos downing North Queensland to keep their season alive, but Hoffman said it was now up to him to prove to the coach that he has made the right decision.
“It was good to be back there but it was a big step from playing on the wing to go back to fullback and I think I’ve still got a lot of work to do – the lungs got a workout on Friday night,” Hoffman told NRL.com ahead of a tough trip to Newcastle this Friday night.
“My job as a fullback is to get myself into the game as much as I can and look around for the ball. When the team needs a big play to spark the team, hopefully I’m there to provide it. Things like sniffing around the big boys and hopefully getting an offload at the end of the half – that’s what I’ll be looking for Friday night.
“Defensively as well there is a lot of responsibility. You’ve always got to be on the ball and trying to get to the ball as much as you can on kick returns because it gives your team the advantage and gets you on the front foot. My job is to get as many metres as I can and get the big boys on the front foot so they can push on from there.
“That’s my goal over the next few weeks – to really make those contributions and help us get to the finals.”
Last week’s win over the Cowboys propelled Brisbane to 18 competition points, although they remain four points outside of the eight and can ill-afford to lose any more ground with just six games remaining before the finals.
While Hoffman said the Broncos were remaining positive about their chances of making a late run, he admitted the players were well aware of the task at hand.
“It has been in the back of our minds that we need to win pretty much every game but also we try to concentrate on just getting these wins,” he said. “I think we’ve got four home games to come and we know that will work in our favour. That can give us a lot of confidence too, having that home game advantage.
“I think we’ve got all the right ingredients there, it’s just trying to put it into action and doing it out on the field. We’ve got great players among us and a good team on paper so we just need to do our job. It’s not familiar for us to be in this position. The Broncos club has a proud history so there is a lot at stake to keep our finals hopes alive.”
Ironically, while Hoffman aims to lead by example for the Broncos over the coming weeks, it is his opposite number that he believes stand in their way of victory at Hunter Stadium on Friday night.
Darius Boyd was easily Newcastle’s best in last week’s loss to Sydney Roosters with Hoffman impressed with the Queensland star’s form since the start of the State of Origin period.
“He has been playing some great footy and he can sniff a try out,” Hoffman said. “Those last three Origin games he played he scored a try in every one of them. I think he has been one of the form fullbacks the past two years.
“He has been working a lot on his ball-playing and his decision-making and that’s something I really want to try and push into my game as well. It will be a tough job coming up against Darius and the mastermind of the game in Wayne Bennett.
“The key for us will be to get it started in the middle and I guess once you match them in the middle and get the roll on forward we should have enough strike out wide with ‘Hodgy’ and a few of the other boys. Hopefully we can get some good ball off the back of some good hit-ups.”