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Melbourne's loss is Wigan's gain

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George Riley George Riley | 16:28 UK time, Thursday, 22 July 2010

Wigan's triple swoop on Melbourne this week serves notice that the club expects this year's successes to be just the start of their renaissance as a rugby league force.

Already standing proud at the top of Super League despite last weekend's bruising loss to Warrington, the Warriors announced the signings of Storm trio Ryan Hoffman, Jeff Lima and Brett Finch in time for what they hope will be next season's title defence.

It is the start of a predictable exodus from the disgraced Mebourne, who were stripped of two NRL titles for breaching salary cap rules. And former Storm assistant coach Michael Maguire has taken full advantage to bolster his side even before this season finishes.

Ryan HoffmanRyan Hoffman has joined Wigan from Melbourne

BBC colleague Phil Kinsella spoke to Hoffman this week and found an Australian international already clued up on Wigan's bright young things currently tearing the British game apart. The second rower did admit, though, that the chance to work with Maguire again was the major reason for moving to England.

"I'm leaving Melbourne a two-time Premiership winner and a State of Origin and Australian player," said Hoffman, who could no doubt have remained in the NRL if he had wanted to. "These are great memories but I'm looking forward to the honour of playing for Wigan. This is something I have always wanted to do."

Rewind a few years and you would probably smirk at a top Aussie speaking of the "honour" of playing for the once mighty Wigan. With Bradford, St Helens and latterly Leeds dominating the British game, the closest the Warriors have been to making waves came in 2006, when Brian Noble arrived with his magic wand from the Bulls to save the club from the humiliation of relegation. Four years on and those foundations Noble laid are being built upon by the likes of the Tomkins brothers, under Maguire's watchful eye.

"Madge [Maguire] being at Wigan was the big factor," says the 26-year-old Hoffman. "There was interest from other Super League clubs but I was never going to entertain those until I spoke to Madge. When he called me to say how excited he was and how much he thought I could contribute to the likes of the Tomkins brothers, I started to look forward to coming over."

Hoffman is already doing his homework. "I've watched Wigan at every opportunity this season," he said. "I saw the Warrington game between what was clearly the best two teams in the competition."

And he is relishing pitting his wits against the best of British. "I really like the Super League," he added. "The Aussie game can be seen as slower and more technical, so I love the way players in England back their abilities and aren't afraid to throw the ball around. There's tough competitors like [Stuart] Fielden and [Adrian] Morley so you know you're going get a fair whack There is a great mix of flair and toughness, and I see that as a way of making me a better player."

Hoffman believes Wigan fans are going to love what they see from the Melbourne trio. "I have never seen a bloke train harder than Lima," he says. "He is always in the gym doing extras which is why he can play so many minutes for such a big bloke. Finch's greatest attribute is his ability to stay cool under pressure. That comes with experience. As for me, well I just hate losing, I can't stand it. That is why I'm joining Wigan. The whole town expects success and that brings out your best football."

Hoffman's big sell is certain to get the Wigan fans on side. And the following remarks will further endear him to the Warriors faithful. "I read that Leeds-Bradford is an airport and that Wigan-St Helens is a rivalry. It's one I can't wait for," said Hoffman. "Wigan-Saints is the game you want to play in and I can't wait for my first one."

Fighting at the KC StadiumTrouble flares between Hull FC and Hull KR players during the Super League match at the KC Stadium

Wigan's seemingly runaway ride at the top of Super League was checked by an awesome Warrington performance last week. There was double reason to celebrate for Wolves centre Ryan Atkins. He jetted off to Spain after the game and proposed to his girlfriend. I am pleased to report she said 'yes' - proof that even through a series of horrendous haircuts this year, you can't keep a good man down.

My favourite story of the week, though, was the peroxide spat between Hull KR forward Clint Newton and Hull FC coach Richard Agar after Hull FC had won a pulsating derby thanks to a brilliant late try-saver from Tom Briscoe on Peter Fox.

Rovers duo Fox and Newton had played the game with bleached blond barnets, prompting Agar to label the pair "cocky" for doing so and hinting that such behaviour had inspired his own side to turn their rivals over. Newton hit back this week, contacting local paper the Hull Daily Mail to launch his own broadside at Agar.

"What Peter Fox and I do is own our business," said Newton, adding that the new look was a result of a team forfeit. "It has nothing to do with being cocky. Maybe Richard Agar is jealous because he can't do that with the hair he has. If his team-talks before a game as big as the derby are about the colour of a player's hair in the opposition, then he has big problems. Maybe I'll paint my fingernails to really get at him next time."

Now that would be something.


  • Comment number 1.

    Painted fingernails? Don't tell some Cas fans!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Wigan will benefit hugely from these signings. Pure NRL quality standard players. They are lucky Maguire is their coach, otherwise the deal wouldn't have been concluded. Fact.

  • Comment number 3.

    "I read that Leeds-Bradford is an airport" - not heard that before! Couldn't agree more as a Saints fan.

  • Comment number 4.

    The Melbourne connection confirms where those lying-on 'skills' came from.

  • Comment number 5.

    nickutto - that Leeds/Bradford Airport line is an old one.

  • Comment number 6.

    Don't worry about Hoffman putting down roots in Wigan. He's got a 1 year deal with a 1 year option. My guess is that he'll be back at AAMI Park for 2012....which is what most Aussie commentators are saying too. As for Lima, he's a good player. Finch, however, is one whose face either fits or doesn't....ask Daniel Anderson. Finchy wasn't a Parra long after Ando took the reins.

    As for the airport comment, any Leaguie knows which derby is better, and it isn't played in Greater Manchester (sorry, Lancashire)

  • Comment number 7.

    Really looking forward to watching the Melbourne trio next season. The Newton/Agar spat was daft. Agar didn't recognise the reasons behind the forfeit and jumped in with both feet. I interviewed Rhys Lovegrove a couple of months ago and he said that if a player does something wrong they get a forfeit which comes after rolling dice. Numbers 1 - 6 have different forfeits. Agar got it completely wrong.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hoffman, Lima and Finch set for Wigan, the reason they and others are leaving Storm in droves, are for NRL SALARY CAP irregularities. Do you think that Wigan can afford this trio given they do not have the best record of staying within the Salary Cap levels?

  • Comment number 9.

    These 3 players are not the reason Melbourne rorted the cap by over 3 million Aussie dollars. Cronk, Inglis, Slater & Smith have been the big winners.

    They have been earning close to 600K AUD per season. That's nothing like what Wigan will have to pay for the 3 players they have relieved Melbourne of.

    Don't think they will stay at Wigan beyond a year or two, then back to NRL. Don't blame them, didn't want to leave in the first place...

  • Comment number 10.

    Of course Leeds-Bradford is an airport....who in their right mind would want to fly to "Wigan-St Helens".......or will they rename John Lennon airport "Shaun Edwards international" ?

  • Comment number 11.

    McGuire really seems to know what he wants & is prepared to fight to get the signings he wants. These 3 will help build what is still a very average squad & the fight for places should see an improvement in performance all round.


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