Lets face it. The English Super League is miles behind the National Rugby League. Most players return shells of their former selves and fade into history without a whimper. Not Ryan Hoffman.
The big backrower has not only returned a better player, but it seems a more confident and aggressive one who helped steer the Melbourne Storm to glory on Sunday at ANZ Stadium.
Hoffman was a bumbling mess in front of the cameras in his early years. When you hear the man interviewed these days, you can see how comfortable he has become with his place in the game.
Hoffman crossed for the first try of the 2012 Grand Final when he slipped onto a Cooper Cronk pass in the seventh minute. A try eerily similar to the one he scored against the Parramatta Eels in the 2009 decider.
After the salary cap breaches of 2010, the Campbelltown Collegians junior was forced from the Storm and took up a contract with the Wigan Warriors in the United Kingdom.
Out of sight and out mind, Hoffman faded from our memories.
But his return was imminent and slid back into the Melbourne system in 2012 like he never left such is his class.
Fast forward ten months and Hoffman has the Telstra Premiership in his keeping.
He was there for the 2007 and 2009 premierships and he was there when they were stripped. Hoffman deserves this retribution just as much as Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk or Cameron Smith.
“I’ve been asked a few times whether this one, if we won, whether it would be sweeter than the others – I guess there’s a small spot that says yes,” captain Smith said post match.
“Winning a grand final, that’s what you aim for.”
“Your congratulations have got to go to the club and the coaching staff.”
“We were gutted a few years ago with our players (leaving), morale wasn’t at the highest that it’s ever been, but we built the club back up.
“Last year we nearly got there and this year we did and we made it count.”
Is it any surprise that Hoffman’s return has seen the Storm take the next step?
You can talk about the “Big 3” all you like. To Storm fans, its more like the “Core 4”.