https://www.theage.com.au/sport/nrl/rya ... 4z0eb.html
As his return game on AAMI Park approaches, Melbourne Storm veteran Ryan Hoffman is looking forward to the little things: the Storm’s banner, the sound of ACDC’s Thunderstruck ringing out and the familiar sight of his purple and navy playing strip.
It doesn’t feel like three years since Hoffman last played for the club but with his New Zealand Warriors stint over, the 34-year-old is ready to run out in the old No.12 top and help his club to a World Club Challenge win over Leeds Rhinos on Friday night.
Technically, Hoffman has already made his AAMI Park return after playing in the team’s closed doors trial game against Newcastle Knights last week but the crowd and the occasion on Friday is his real homecoming.
“To come back and pull on the purple jersey again is very special and something I didn’t think I’d do again,” Hoffman said on Thursday.
“It’s a very special game and it’s the Melbourne-centric things like the banner and that sort of stuff, it’s only small things that you miss and only understand how much it means to the club [when you are gone].”
Hoffman has played in four previous WCC games (three with Storm, one with Wigan Warriors) but will relish the chance to play in Australian conditions as opposed to the cold of the English winter.
“We have been saying over the years in all the other World Club Challenges that we would love to play them on a dry track during summer in Australia," Hoffman said.
"We have got that opportunity and it’s up to us to put in a good performance.”
Leeds coach Brian McDermott expressed some unhappiness at the decision to have two referees officiate the game instead of one as is usually the case in international rugby league and English Super League games.
“It’s not good,” McDermott told the club website.
“I don’t think there is anything sinister in this from the NRL. Their competition plays with two referees and we play with one.
“There has been all sorts of dialogue over the years about Super League should move to two but we are not happy this has been forced upon us.
“We agreed in England about some parameters around how we play the game. The term that was always used was international rules.
“We have nothing to hide and don’t think the second referee will find any sort of cynical play or sneaky play out of us but I don’t hope they showcase two referees and it becomes a penalty-ridden game.”
Hoffman said Storm had nothing to do with that decision.
“We were surprised too,” Hoffman said. “It is completely out of our control and it won’t matter to us. It’s what you do with the ball, the idea is to not have the referees involved in the game too much.”
Melbourne have named an almost full-strength side for the game with only injured prop Sam Kasiano (ankle) out.
Hoffman wants to put in a good performance in his favoured second-row position considering Joe Stimson and Patrick Kaufusi are competing with him for the starting role.
Leeds, who have started the Super League season with two wins, have lost several of their props including former Storm forward Mitch Garbutt to injury, and could have a less-experienced forward pack but Hoffman knows the Rhinos will field a quality side.
“You prefer to have your starting front rowers but it won’t change their game plan - they are tough boys from Yorkshire,” Hoffman said.
“They are going love the challenge and every time we have played them they have been really aggressive through the middle and we expect nothing less regardless of who they have wearing the prop jerseys.”
The Storm will also have a side playing the New Zealand Warriors in Rotorua on Saturday afternoon, with that side made up of emerging players and those not playing Friday.
Melbourne Storm host Leeds Rhinos in the World Club Challenge at AAMI Park on Friday at 8pm.