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Revelling in his place amongst the NRL’s top tryscorers in 2013, Brisbane winger Josh Hoffman says he is more than happy to bide his time out wide… but not for the long haul.
Expected to fill the Broncos’ No.1 jersey this year, Hoffman was stunned to learn just before season kick-off that he had been shunted to the wing instead to cover for a lack of depth on the wing, with youngster Corey Norman preferred for the fullback role.
Yet rather than throw in the towel, Hoffman has proved a revelation on the left flank with seven tries from as many games and a healthy 115 metres to his name every 80 minutes.
Asked how he felt about his new role as the Broncos ride a three-match winning streak into Friday night’s big clash with South Sydney, the 25-year-old said the change had actually benefited his football but admitted he still hoped to return to his preferred fullback spot sometime in the not-too-distant future.
“It was obviously a bit of a shock at the start of the year not actually getting that fullback role but the coach [Anthony Griffin] sat me down and told me that Corey was going to get the position. It was a bit daunting but it was in the team’s best interests and at the moment I’m probably playing the best footy I’ve ever played,” Hoffman said. “It’s getting me a few tries as well, so I can’t complain. I’ve just got to keep my head down and do my job.”
“To be honest it (the wing) is no different to the fullback role as in positional play with the kick return. The coach has given me the licence to roam around a bit and get my hands on the ball, so that’s a bit comforting that he has a bit of faith in me to do that.
“I’ve put the disappointment behind me and now it’s just trying to do what’s best for the team and doing my job on the wing.”
A five-eighth for much of his junior footballing days, Hoffman’s long-term goal is to have a crack at Brisbane’s No.6 jersey although the presence of Scott Prince for at least one more season after 2013 means he might have to put those plans on hold.
Not so fullback, with Hoffman eyeing a return to the back once Norman leaves the Broncos for Parramatta at the end of the year.
“Hopefully towards the end of the year or when Corey goes I get to slot into that fullback position but there are a lot of things I need to focus on with that ball-playing role that Corey is a little bit better with,” he said. “Having that advantage over me, being a five-eighth, he is a lot crisper with his decision-making so that’s something I really need to focus on this year and towards the end of the year.
“I wouldn’t mind the fullback position but growing up being a five-eighth I probably would like to try that out and see how I go.”
In the meantime, Hoffman and the Broncos are enjoying a run of good form with consecutive wins over the Gold Coast, North Queensland and Wests Tigers having eased the pressure of their slow start to the season.
But they face a far more daunting challenge this Friday when they host a South Sydney side that have lost just one of their opening seven games. Key to the Rabbitohs’ success has been the kicking game of Adam Reynolds, with Hoffman predicting he would be peppered with bombs from the young Souths halfback.
“That’s what I’m expecting,” he said. “I’ll be down at the training paddock doing a few extras with the high ball this week... he is a bit of a sharpshooter so he can put the ball in the right places. It will be a tough job for me come Friday night up against Andrew Everingham and a tough job for [Jack Reid) too but being beside Jack has been a breath of fresh air with all the talking that he adds to the team as well as his great defence. Hopefully we can keep that going this week.”
Hoffman said it would be up to Brisbane’s outside backs to chip in and do their bit in the middle this week to ease the burden on the Broncos’ big men against the biggest forward pack in the competition.
“I think when we come up against a much bigger team we do find ourselves getting in there and doing a bit more work, scoots and that, trying to put a bit of footwork on the big men,” he said. “We find ourselves doing a bit of work and that allows our forwards – we’ve got a much smaller pack – that allows them to do a bit of ball work and put some passes on and hopefully get around their big men.
“We need to try and move their big men around the middle. Hopefully us backs can put a bit of footwork on and put a hole in the middle and let our forwards run off the back of that. In saying that they’ve got some strong boys and also guys like Ben Te’o and Sam Burgess that have great feet and they will be tough to look after.”