Past master … Melbourne second-rower Ryan Hoffman last represented NSW in 2008 before going to Wigan in the English Super League. Photo: Craig Golding
FORMER Test and NRL coach Daniel Anderson has joined a late push for Melbourne second-rower Ryan Hoffman to be selected for NSW.
Anderson, the former Warriors and Parramatta coach, believes Hoffman is in better form now than he was when he left the NRL for a stint with Wigan, and that he would provide the game to harass Queensland's star halves Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk in game one.
''He's very similar in style to Ben Kennedy,'' Anderson said. ''He's got a very good habit of finding the bloke that you want making tackles.
''In Origin, they talk about wanting to make Thurston and Cronk making lots of tackles. He [Hoffman] would be very adept at that role.''
Hoffman is understood to be under consideration by NSW coach Ricky Stuart for the May 23 opener at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium, which would be something of a surprise given the 28-year-old has not played an Origin contest since 2008.
The fact that NSW are blessed with an abundance of quality back-rowers will count against him - Anthony Watmough and Luke Lewis represented Australia against New Zealand last month while Glenn Stewart would likely have been there if fit. But there seems a genuine chance now that Hoffman might be selected somewhere.
''He's very much in form in a brilliant team,'' said Anderson, also a former New Zealand coach and currently a pundit for the ABC. ''He's as tough as they come, and he scores tries - for a back-rower, that gives him a lot of credibility.''
Hoffman also received support yesterday from his club coach Craig Bellamy, who was the Blues boss the last time the back-rower represented his state. ''He's in as good a form as he's been for five or six years,'' Bellamy said. ''He's been there and done it before, and would step up and do it again comfortably. He's been a big part of our success down here. He'd do a great job.''
Ironically, Hoffman might find himself competing with his club teammate Ryan Hinchcliffe. His selection might depend on whether Stuart decides to select a back-up for Robbie Farah at hooker, or four forwards on his interchange. Otherwise, Hoffman would have to be selected over one of Watmough, Lewis, Stewart and Greg Bird.
Ben Creagh is another option for the left second-row role, while more dynamic players like Manly's Tony Williams and North Queensland's Tariq Sims have many supporters.
But Anderson is convinced Hoffman should play - and start - for the Blues.
''He's disciplined, and I think the time's right for him,'' Anderson said. ''Just with his form, I think he's very important. He's playing better than before he left [the NRL].''
Hoffman's early-season form was also enough to give him a City jersey last month, and Hoffman responded by being one of the best forwards in the game.
His coach in that encounter, Brad Fittler, said the fact that Hoffman was an 80-minute player - and that Lewis played his best football on the left side - might count against him.
''He did a fantastic job for us,'' Fittler said. ''He was one of our best players - he's a bloke you have that much trust in.'' His opposing coach in Mudgee, Country's Laurie Daley, said he felt Hoffman was a strong chance to play at some stage in this year's series. Daley said Hoffman was playing better football than when he previously represented the Blues, in 2007 and 2008.
''He wouldn't let anyone down,'' Daley said. ''He's a more mature player, he knows how to get himself involved in the game, and he looks as though he's a good leader. He's more robust, and he's got an offload in his game. He's a very, very talented player.''
Hoffman will have a final chance to impress tomorrow against Cronulla. Whether his prospective Blues captain Paul Gallen plays against him is likely to be decided today, when the lock runs for the first time since his knee injury on Monday night against South Sydney.
Gallen is said to be still hopeful of playing against the competition front-runners.