Hoffman wary of buoyant PNG
Kiwi fullback Josh Hoffman says his side will need to iron out a little rustiness to be ready for a "very physical" Papua New Guinea side that will be buoyed by its recent entry to the Queensland Cup.
Hoffman left the controversy over his future with the Broncos to the side as he turned his focus to the immediate challenge – a meeting with the Kumuls on Saturday morning (Friday night UK time) in Leeds.
Hoffman predicted PNG would play a very physical game, but not necessarily a highly structured one.
"A lot of their players will be ad-lib. I believe with their halves, Ray Thompson will be the man to direct them around the park," he said.
On news of the country's recent admission to the Queensland Cup, Hoffman said it represented a great opportunity for the nation of Papua New Guinea but also for the locals and everyone in the Queensland region.
"It will be good for them going into the competition. They've been trying to bed a side in for a long time now and the time's finally here," he said.
"They're a very rugby league-orientated people and they love their footy. It will be interesting to see how they go."
Hoffman tipped the PNG side to get a welcoming reception from the locals. "They're a very friendly people, everyone loves them and as I said it will be interesting how the whole competition goes and how they go in the Queensland Cup," he said.
Hoffman said the Kiwis' performances so far were still a little rusty, despite the fact they have won both matches comfortably.
"We're still working our way into it but as it's coming down to the business end there's not a lot of time for building combinations – so as Friday night comes against PNG we really have to knuckle down," he said.
Looking ahead, Hoffman said the Australians still represent the Kiwis biggest challenge to retaining their title as world champions.
"Obviously the Aussies are probably the biggest threat and always have been," he said. "Throughout every Test match when they've played the Kiwis, they've always been a threat. It's no surprise we'll be going in as underdogs with the Kangaroos being the benchmark."
On his battle with the Warriors' Kevin Locke for the black number one jersey (a position which has itself attracted controversy for Hoffman following recent public comments from Broncos teammate Justin Hodges), Hoffman said the competition was good for the squad overall.
"We're both pretty humble about it; it's always good having a bit of competition in tournament and it makes you play a bit harder for the jersey," he said.
"Off the field I can say we hold no grudges, we're both characters and both like to have a bit of a laugh. We're fighting for the same jersey so when that day comes and [New Zealand coach] Steve [Kearney] names that 17 man squad it's [a case of] 'see who gets the job done.'"
Hoffman said he would need to continue to make improvements to his game to stay in the frame as Kearney's first choice fullback.
"I think just a lot of involvement from myself and plenty of talk amongst the team, the playing group. There's nothing better than having a fullback that talks a lot and brings the best out of the other players," he said.
"Also trying to work on little things. There's been a lot of controversy about my passing game, I have to brush up on that but it's something I've been working on, it's not something that comes naturally, you have to groom into it and that's what I'm trying to do."
Is it because he's so used to scoring tries he doesn't need to pass?
"Haha, the whole this year, you know, I never had to worry about passing a ball, just diving over the line," Hoffman laughed.
"But being back in the Kiwis camp, it's brought a lot of confidence out of myself. Playing fullback, it's allowed me to try new elements to my game," he said.