The backline puzzle: where does Josh Hoffman fit in the Parramatta Eels?

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The clean-out at the Gold Coast Titans has already seen Nene MacDonald, David Mead and now another high-profile player move on.

Josh Hoffman has signed a three year deal with the Parramatta Eels — effective 2017. His vast improvement in form is full credit to Neil Henry, who shifted him into the centres for the better part of his tenure on the glitter strip. His versatility is also a big plus for the Sydney-based club, with the former Bronco covering up to four backline positions.

The question most fans will be asking is where he fits into Parra’s already-stocked backline? Brad Takairangi recently re-signed with the club and the ball-playing centre is having a blast on the right edge. Michael Jennings occupies the other three-quarter position and despite regression in form this year, he is on big money and has proven himself a big-game player throughout the years — winning a premiership and breaking Queensland’s decade-long dominance of NSW in State of Origin;

Semi Radradra has made the left wing spot his home and a host of other talent, including: Bevan French, Clinton Gutherson, Bureta Faraimo, Vai Toutai & John Folau could find themselves playing outside of Brad Takairangi next year on the opposite edge;

Josh Hoffman’s experience and versatility is wasted out wide in the centres or on the wing and the former Kiwi International needs and by all calculations will, be assigned a more important role.

Corey Norman looks set to make a permanent shift to halfback next year, having proven he has what it takes to control a game. This leaves a pivot spot in the side open, with Hoffman seeming a logical fit, having played in the 6 before. However, with Clinton Gutherson impressing as a makeshift five-eighth and the club on the lookout for an established halfback, which has seen them pursue interest in Adam Reynolds, Benji Marshall and more recently, Sam Williams, it seems unlikely Parramatta’s newest recruit will find himself in playing in the halves.

By my estimations, Josh Hoffman will most likely be playing his first game in the blue and gold with the #1 on his back. His ball-playing abilities and speed-to-burn would be a welcome addition into Parramatta’s spine, which consists of Corey Norman, Clinton Gutherson and Isaac De Gois. Bevan French — whose future is definitely as the long-term fullback of the club, is set to bulk up in size and continue to develop his skills in the new position. Josh Hoffman could offer the perfect mentorship for the rookie sensation. I can see the two rotating throughout the year, with the team benefiting from the raw talent and try-scoring consistency of Bevan French, while also injecting a more experienced hand and seasoned Josh Hoffman.


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