By Bryce Lowry
Ryan Hoffman is Australia’s Rugby League big back-rower with the even bigger heart.
Playing for the Melbourne Storm since his NRL debut in 2003, Ryan has been integral to his team’s rise to the top. Despite being based in the Aussie Rules stronghold, the team’s success over the past decade, born of grit and determination, has seen the Melbourne franchise win over the city’s hearts and minds.
Following his club’s Grand Final loss in 2006, a photo of Hoffman, sat in the centre of Telstra Stadium after the final whistle, slumped in tears, graced the nation’s newspapers. The image epitomised his and his team’s commitment and desire for success.
That passion drove the Storm to go one step further in 2007 and claim the NRL crown.
They were runners-up again in 2008 and in their fourth consecutive Grand Final appearance last year, in which Hoffman scored the opening try, Melbourne were again crowned champions.
The run of success lead most pundits to agree that Melbourne Storm were the ‘NRL Team of the Decade’ and in October they were ranked the most popular sporting team in Melbourne by a national Roy Morgan Poll.
As current NRL champions, Melbourne Storm are in the UK this month to take on Super League’s champions, Leeds Rhinos, to decide the title of World Club Champion.
In a warm-up to that match on February 28, the Storm clash with another club on the rise in a city dominated by a different football code – London’s Harlequins, on February 21.
Hoffman, who is also a State of Origin and Kangaroos representative player, shared his thoughts with Australian Times ahead of the encounter.
Who are the big dangers for you in the Quins line-up, which Melbourne will need to contain to win?
“David Howell, I know him very well, we grew up playing footy against each other and he’s a pretty good mate of mine.
“The same with Luke Dorn. I’ve played plenty of times against him back in Australia and he’s a very elusive player.
“And when you have a player like Danny Orr leading them around, you know they’re going to have a strong squad.”
What for you is the biggest adjustment that you need to make to your game when playing in England?
“The speed of the play the ball is a major focus in playing in Australia but maybe not so much in England.
“We had to adjust to that when we toured with Australia [The Kangaroos] and we’ll have to do the same now we’re back with the Melbourne Storm.”
Do you think it’s fair to draw similarities between the Storm and Quins, in terms of the clubs’ battles to win over fans in cities dominated by another footy code?
“Absolutely. The Quins are making inroads in a city dominated by soccer and we’re the same with AFL in Victoria.
“We, as a club, try to provide the sporting loving public of Melbourne an entertainment package that’s different and we continue to build on our support base each year.”
What have you concluded that the clubs could learn from each other in this respect?
“Success is the major factor. Fans want to support a successful team and that’s what we strive to be each year. I’m sure Quins are the same.”
Which Super League team do you support?
“I can’t pick one because I’ve got so many good mates playing or coaching at other clubs.
“We have former Storm players spread right across the competition – Dallas Johnson, Clint Newton, Michael Maguire, Jake Webster and Matt King. It’d be wrong of me to single one out.”
How do you think you will cope playing if it’s zero degrees and snowing?
“I hope it is. I think it’s exciting to be honest. I’ve never played in the snow so from that point of view it’ll be very different.
“We play in temperatures that are quite cool in Melbourne during winter, so I don’t think it’s going to be a major factor.”
Melbourne Storm take on Harlequins RL at Twickenham Stoop in London on Sunday, February 21st.
Ticket are £10 adults, £5 children and available from www.league.quins.co.uk or by calling 0871 527 1315.
To enter the competition to WIN tickets to the match, click here