Major 2015 signing Ryan Hoffman made a brief visit to the Vodafone Warriors this week to ctach up with staff and have a look at his new environment.
He came away hugely impressed with the set-up and facilities.
Hoffman's signing was confirmed earlier in the season after he was secured on a three-year contract to the end of the 2017 NRL season.
The former Kangaroo and current New South Wales State of Origin forward will become the Vodafone Warriors’ most experienced player.
He has played in four of the Storm’s five grand finals in the last eight seasons – 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2012 – missing the fifth in 2008 through injury.
He was a try-scorer in their 14-4 victory over Canterbury-Bankstown in 2012, the year he returned to the club after a one-season stint with Wigan in the English Super League when his team-mates included current Vodafone Warriors Sam Tomkins and Thomas Leuluai.
He was part of Wigan’s Challenge Cup triumph over St Helens that season and also returned to England in 2013 to help Melbourne beat Leeds in the World Club Challenge.
He finished his 12 seasons with Melbourne with a total of 245 appearances for Melbourne is bettered by only Cameron Smith, Matt Geyer, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk; he has played 279 top-grade games including his 34 for the Wigan Warriors in 2011.
As well as playing five Tests for the Kangaroos he has 11 Origin appearances for New South Wales including all three matches in their title-winning effort this year.
“I couldn’t be happier with the chance to move to Auckland next year,” said the 30-year-old Hoffman.
“I’ve had a terrific time with Melbourne and obviously I still have a long way to go before I finish here. That’s the immediate focus for me. I want to finish well because this club has done so much for me.
“I never need reminding about how good the Warriors are. I’ve played in enough Melbourne sides when we’ve finished on the wrong side including this year's Anzac Day match.
“They’re such a tough side to play against and I really look forward to being part of the club once I get there. I’ve been fortunate to play in four grand finals so far with the Storm and I’m determined to experience more with the Warriors.”
Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden and Hoffman were briefly team-mates at the Storm in 2003 and 2004 as McFadden was ending his playing career and Hoffman was starting his.
“I saw Ryan when he was just coming into the game and he really stood out as a player who would go a long way,” said McFadden.
“He’s a great professional who has performed exceptionally at the highest levels in the game and on big occasions. He knows what it takes to succeed and will bring fantastic qualities to the Vodafone Warriors.”
Vodafone Warriors general manager football Dean Bell said Hoffman’s signing ranked as one of the most significant in the club’s history.
“Ryan’s achievements, his longevity and his durability separate him as one of the game’s top players of this era,” he said.
“Everyone we’ve spoken to has the highest opinion of him, among them Sam (Tomkins) and Thomas (Leuluai) who can’t say enough about him after just one season with Wigan.”
As a specialist left-edge back rower, Hoffman stands out as one of the NRL’s most prolific try-scoring forwards with a total of 59. Only Manly’s Anthony Watmough of today’s forwards has scored more.
It’s a little-known fact Hoffman has previously lived in New Zealand. He did his intermediate school years in Wellington when he moved to the Capital with his family after his father was transferred through his work.
This time he’s transferring to New Zealand with wife Melissa and their son Zach.
Hoffman has a strong rugby league pedigree. His father Jay, a hooker, was a foundation Canberra Raiders player making 111 appearances from 1982-1987 and he also represented Queensland in the pre-Origin days.