Hoffman eyes countdown to final run
FORGET about taking it one week at a time.
Storm back-rower Ryan Hoffman knows exactly who his team is due to play in the next three weeks - for the record, Melbourne will face the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, followed by the Sharks at AAMI Park and then the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown.
With the NRL having adopted the AFL's finals system this year, finishing in the top four will guarantee a second finals game even with a loss in week one, but finishing in the top two will secure a home final in week one.
"We've got three really big games, starting with the Broncos as the first leg. We definitely want to try to get a home final," Hoffman said.
While the Storm moved back into second place courtesy of its 24-16 win against the Titans on Friday night, combined with the Rabbitohs' loss to Manly, Hoffman said no one at the club was under any illusion about the improvement needed.
"Our last two games, against Penrith and the Titans, have been 40-minute efforts," he said.
"We've got to get back to playing 80 minutes of rugby league."
Both the Storm and Broncos have struggled to regain their best form since the Origin series ended, with the Broncos winning just one of five games since Origin III, and the Storm losing their next four games after the Suncorp decider before the wins against the Panthers and Gold Coast.
Hoffman, who said he had been happy with his own form since coming back from a season in the English Super League with Wigan, said several factors had contributed to the drop-off.
"It wasn't just the disruption from State of Origin - losing Billy (Slater) was crucial. We also may not have had the attention to detail (after Origin)," he said. While the Storm's performance against the Titans wasn't up to the expectations of coach Craig Bellamy or the players, Hoffman said the big positive out of the game was the debut of 20-year-old Mahe Fonua.
The winger became the first Victorian-born player to come through the Storm's junior system and play in the NRL. "That was a really proud moment for Mahe and the club. It showed you can be a Victorian kid and still make it in the toughest rugby league competition in the world."
Hoffman said his year with Wigan had convinced him more English players could make it in the NRL.
"The top teams over there are as good as the NRL, but the lower ones drop off," he said.
"There are a lot of talented juniors coming through (in England). With the salary cap increase (in the NRL) and the strength of the Aussie dollar, I can definitely see more English players coming over".