Wigan Warriors: Ryan Hoffman believes his Super League experience helped to make him a better player
Ryan Hoffman says he is privileged to have represented Wigan Warriors and believes his spell in Super League helped to make him a better player.
The retired Australian international second-rower played in cherry and white during the 2011 season, where he helped the club win the Challenge Cup.
Hoffman states NRL players shouldn't see making the move to England as a downgrade, and insists that it is a misconception that there is a big drop in quality between the competitions in the two countries.
He said: “I’ve got nothing but fantastic memories. It was one of the best things I ever did in my career. I had always wanted to go and play in England, it really appealed to me because I’m a bit of a rugby league tragic, I like the history of it.
“I was that kid who was getting up at three in the morning to watch Challenge Cup finals. In my mind I was going to be nothing else other than a rugby league player.
“The trick was picking the right moment to come over. When Melbourne had their salary cap dramas, the club had to cut players. Madge (Michael Maguire) was the coach (at Wigan Warriors) and he knew how much I wanted to give it a go for a year.
“I was 27, and wasn’t a mainstay in Origin or anything at that stage, so I thought it was great to get away for a bit of a sabbatical. I never realised how great it would be for my career.
“Just things like playing at grounds I’ve never played at before, and experiencing a different rugby league atmosphere, I absolutely loved it. It made me a better footballer and when I went back to Australia, I played more Origins and test matches than I did before.
“There were whispers going around that I was at the end of my career, I was like ‘bulls***’ I’m 27, I’ve got a hell of a lot of years left and got the opportunity to play in England, why wouldn’t I do it?’
“You see English players come over to Australia and play well. So the myth that you go down a peg to play in England is something I take great offence to because that’s certainly not what I was doing or envisioned.
“At the time, I didn’t think I needed a break from the NRL or anything like that, but it gave me a great freshener.
“There was not a bad thing about it. The people were fantastic, the club was brilliant. We made some great friends who we still speak to quite regularly now.
“There’s blokes there who I know I can text no worries and get a response. There’s a reason it’s been so successful and that’s because of the people involved.
“I took great pride in living in the north of England and being in the town. I love it when people ask me about it. It was great to be part of the club and the town too.
“It’s one of those genuine English towns that don’t want for much but take pride in who they are and what they are about. To say I was a part of that is something I take great pride in.
“You’re not playing for massive major cities, you’re playing for the town you are living in and that reinvigorated things for me. Wigan lives and breathes rugby league, where the people on the street love it.
“You see the fans walking to the stadium on game day, then you see them in the Boars Head or The Brocket afterwards you get to have a beer with them. It was a real community atmosphere.
“My teammates were brilliant during my time there. I sort of already knew Amos Roberts, but then the first blokes I met were Lee Mossop and Sean O’Loughlin. For them to welcome me into a club like that was fantastic. We had a great community of players.
“The town itself made you proud to wear that crest on your chest. Every time you ran out there and saw the fans, it made you realise who you are playing for.
“Moments like winning the Challenge Cup final and seeing the crowd back at the DW, was just outstanding.”
Hoffman returned to Melbourne Storm after his year in England as he felt he had more to prove in the NRL, but admits he would’ve liked to have played in England again at some stage before his retirement in 2018.
“I was excited to go back to Australia because I knew I wasn’t done over there,” he said.
“I knew I had more Origin games and Grand Finals left in me. So I knew it was right for me to go back because I felt as if I was in the prime of my career.
“I went there in 2012 and it was the best year I had in the NRL, so I don’t regret going back at that stage, but I wish I would’ve come back towards the end of my career just to experience it again.
“I don’t have any regrets in my rugby league career, but I wish I had more years in my legs so I could’ve done a lot more stuff. I certainly wouldn’t have been disappointed if I came back to England and Wigan because I enjoyed it that much.”