Challenge like Champions League - Hoffman
Australia international Ryan Hoffman reckons the World Club Challenge is rugby league’s answer to football’s Champions League and wants to see it expanded.
Hoffman will make his fourth appearance in the annual global challenge when he lines up for Melbourne Storm against Leeds Rhinos at Headingley on Friday 22 February.
“I think it’s the closest we get to the Champions League in soccer,” Hoffman told his club’s website www.melbournestorm.com.au.
“It shows just how special it is when you get teams from two different competitions with different styles and different players.
“It’s a great concept; personally I’d like to see it expanded, maybe to a six or eight-team competition. I think in that form it can really boost the profile of rugby league.”
Hoffman, who was in the Wigan Warriors team that lost to St George Illawarra in the 2011 global challenge, is in Melbourne’s 21-strong squad that flew out of Australia yesterday morning.
They will set up camp in London before moving to Yorkshire on Sunday to finalise their preparations.
“We at Storm take it really seriously,” Hoffman added.
“There’s a trophy up for grabs and any time you get the chance to go for a trophy you want to take it.
“We’ve worked really hard during the pre-season and we’re going to use this as a yardstick to see how we’re going.”
Melbourne and Leeds have met twice in the World Club Challenge, in 2008 and 2010, with honours shared.
The Rhinos are the holders after defeating Manly in last year’s match and will be aiming to become the first team to win four world titles.
“They’re a big-game team; they can get themselves up for the big games and they know what it takes to win big games,” Hoffman said.
“I don’t think there is a more experienced team in the world in the last decade when it comes to final games.”
Melbourne have included 11 members of their Grand Final-winning team, including Kangaroos trio Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk after they overcame injury concerns.
However, the Storm paid a heavy price for their mauling by Canberra in Friday’s trial match, with New Zealand internationals Matt Duffie (hamstring) and Kevin Proctor (knee) and utility back Maurice Blair (cheekbone) all suffering injuries which ruled them out of the trip.
The squad includes Hoffman’s former Wigan team-mate Brett Finch and England international Gareth Widdop.