Storm star eyes fairytale farewell
Two-try hero Ryan Hoffman has admitted that he doesn't know how many games he has left as a Storm player, instead eyeing a fairytale finals run that would culminate in a fourth victory lap on Grand Final day on October 5.
If the Storm are to mount a premiership charge to that first weekend in October – and from Friday night's 30-8 drubbing of the Broncos it is appearing more and more likely that they can – Hoffman has at least nine games left in a purple jersey before joining the Warriors on a lucrative three-year deal starting in 2015.
Drafted into the Storm system way back in 2003, Hoffman took up the opportunity to spend a year in England playing for Wigan in 2011 in the wake of the Storm's salary cap scandal but concedes that it is starting to hit home that after 11 seasons the end of his Melbourne adventure is drawing closer.
"This time it's for good. We've got six games until the finals and I want to keep going as long as we can," Hoffman said after scoring twice against the Broncos on Friday night, helping Melbourne to move into sixth spot on the ladder.
"It's been a fantastic ride so far these last 12 years and I'm not really focusing too much on the fact I've got only x amount of games because I don't know; I want to keep playing for the Storm as long as humanly possible.
"We'll just keep going and when it comes to that, to playing that final game, we'll be winning at the end of it."
Along with fellow Origin stars Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, Hoffman starred as the Storm flexed their premiership muscle and put in the rear-vision mirror a couple of unfamiliar weeks spent outside the top eight.
Cronk in particular looked fresh from his enforced layoff with a broken arm and Hoffman credited the work of the Melbourne Storm medical team for putting them in an excellent position to finish the season strongly.
"I'll be honest, it took a lot out of me," Hoffman said of the 2014 Origin Series, his fatigue perhaps lessened by recording a rare win over his Storm teammates.
"We've had to deal with backing up of players for a long period of time and the club's gotten really good at knowing when to rest us and knowing when to give us days off training and all that sort of stuff.
"I've come out of it feeling better than what I did last year. Last year having not played Origin for five years it was a bit of a shock to the system finishing the Series but I feel better this year than what I had last year and I think that's got to do with the amount of work our sport science team did pre-Origin, during Origin and now post [Origin].
"It's not just you wait and see until how you go after the game is finished, there's a lot of processes that go into it."
Storm coach Craig Bellamy revealed after the win over Brisbane that he tried to give skipper Cameron Smith a breather – which could have potentially robbed him of the opportunity to pass Craig Fitzgibbon as the greatest try-scoring forward in the game's history – but Hoffman, one of just five players to play more than 200 games for the club, said the side's senior players will always put their hand up to play.
"There's no pressure to play; we're playing. We're fit, we can run, we can tackle, so there's no reason why we wouldn't play," said Hoffman, who took advantage of a 10-day turnaround to enjoy a family holiday on the Sunshine Coast after the win in Brisbane.
"I think all the hard work we'd done in the pre-season and leading into Origin has put us in good stead to come out of it really well. I think I played 75 minutes tonight, Smithy's played 80, Bill played 80, 'Coops' played 80 so I think everyone's feeling good.
"We've got a big turnaround next week to play the Tigers so we'll get a bit of rest this week as well and I think we'll be in good stead."