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The goodbyes have always been difficult.


The first one came in 2010 and it demonstrated Hoffy’s selflessness. The salary cap controversy hit the club and the Storm were forced to shed players. I think we lost 11 in all. Hoffy was one of those.


I didn’t get into the nitty-gritty details of his signing with Wigan, but it was abundantly clear that he had put the club ahead of himself. He understood players needed to exit the Storm to relieve the salary cap pressure. It probably helped a little bit that he and Mel enjoyed travelling and a stint in the UK would put them on the doorstep of Europe, but it was still a massive decision in the context of his career. It’s something I’ll never forget.


As it turned out, he cleaned up over there in the UK. Wigan won the Challenge Cup that season and finished second in the Super League. Then he returned to the Storm and we won the premiership in his first year back.


The bloke’s a winner.


There’s a tinge of sadness but I try to focus on the good times, the great memories, but also the tough periods we’ve shared together. We got through them all, one way or another.


The next farewell came at the end of the 2014 season when Hoffy signed with the New Zealand Warriors. If I’m honest, I’d have to say I found that goodbye harder than the first. It meant having to play against him in the NRL. It also meant losing a great club man, and we’d lost a handful of those around that same period.


He’s only ever had great things to say about his time in New Zealand. He loved the club, the people and the opportunity to travel around the country. The only time he didn’t enjoy pulling on the Warriors jersey was when he had to play Melbourne!


It all worked out for the best (as far as I’m concerned, anyway). We were over in New Zealand a few days ahead of a game against the Warriors in 2017 and Hoffy popped in to say g’day. He mentioned that there was a chance he might be coming back to the Storm.


I thought, ‘That’d be bloody outstanding.’ He’s a club legend. To have an opportunity to finish his career with us was brilliant.


It all worked out and he returned this season for his third and final stint with Melbourne. I know he’s achieved a lot elsewhere in the game but, to me, he’ll always be a Storm player – and a legend of the club at that.


I’ve treasured every moment I’ve had to play with him in his final season. If you look at our squad this year, there are quite a lot of kids. Some of them were in primary school when Hoffy, Bill and I were starting out in first grade.


To have a guy who has done so much for the club return has been immense.


It’s one of the big reasons we find ourselves still alive with a fortnight left in the season.





There’s every chance the big fella has saved his best for last.


A little over a month ago, it looked like Hoffy’s career was over. He ruptured a tendon in his hamstring against the Sharks and the original diagnosis was a shocker. It was something like an eight-to-12 week injury and we only had a maximum of six weeks left in the season.


That was no way for any player to leave the game, much less a bloke who has clocked up more than 350 games across the NRL and Super League and represented his country and state with distinction.


I remember seeing Hoffy in the medical room after the Sharks game. He was pretty distraught. Mel was upset, too. We were all devastated for them.


The next time I saw him, though, his mood had changed. The sadness was replaced with resolve. It was maybe two days after he’d copped the injury and he was like, ‘It feels good. I’m positive. I’ll be back.’


Every time I was at the club, Hoffy would be in the medical room working on his hamstring. He was taking it home with him, too. He was icing and stretching at all hours of the night. Bugger the diagnosis. He wanted to leave the game on his terms.


Within a week and a half, Hoffy was out running on the training paddock. Not just running but really striding out. I was thinking, ‘This is a miracle.’ We copped a couple of injuries after the next game and the coach came up to me afterwards and said, ‘The medical staff are telling me Hoffy’s sweet. I’m going to put him in.’ I was absolutely delighted.


He returned for the last round of the season and has been an integral member of the squad through the finals. It’s another example of his guts, determination and dedication to his rehabilitation. He turned a three-month injury into three weeks. That’s what warriors do.


And here we are now with a chance of making one last grand final together.


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