quinta-feira, 6 de Novembro de 2008

Zé Rohan,Mister Canguru ou P. D'Rohan Hoffmann

Hoffmann: Test player, Test referee

He is a mobile man who has settled down. He has gone from Brisbane to Lisbon and become a rare bird in modern times - an international player who has become an international referee - Rohan Hoffmann.

He came to Lisbon for a season and the season has become a wonderful lifetime.

Peter D'Rohan Hoffmann (the Rohan is a family tradition) was born in Brisbane on 14 January, 1972. He was educated at Marist College, Ashgrove, one of Australia's great rugby nurseries, the school which counts John Eales amongst its Old Boys. Andrew Cole, the recently retired top referee, is also an Old Boy.

In August 1993 wandering Rohan was playing for London Scottish, which was an English Premiership club at the time. The club's coach was Andrew Cushing who was also coaching the Portuguese national side at the time. Cushing suggested that Rohan go to sunny Lisbon to play there for a season.

That 1993 season has stretched to 15 years, a wife, two children, lots of friends, "a great climate, fantastic food and wines/beers, and lots of history and culture".

He met Maria João the day he arrived in Portugal and they have been married for 14 years. Their children are Martin 10 and Pedro 2. Home is in "a beautiful suburb called Aroeira on the south side of the River Tagus, two minutes off the beach, right beside one of the country's top golf courses".

Life is good and Brisbane is a long way away. At present Rohan is completing a Commercial Pilots Licence.

Rohan Hoffman was a back. "Fullback was my favoured position." After leaving Ashgrove he played for Brothers club in Brisbane and played for Queensland Schools, Queensland Under-19 and Queensland Under-21 and was in his second season with Brothers 1st XV when he was invited to play for London Scottish.

In Portugal he played for Tecnico who had great successes in Portuguese competitions - Portuguese Cup (1994), Portuguese Supercup (1994) and Portuguese Club Champions (1998). Then he went to England with a professional contract to play for Worcester Warriors but breaking a leg twice made it a bad idea and he returned to Portugal, this time playing for the law side GD Direito again successfully - Portuguese Cup (2002), Portuguese Club Champions (2002) and Iberian Cup Winners (2002).

He played for Portugal's national side 28 times from 1995 to 2003, captain in his last four seasons. In 1998 he ran 90 metres to score a try against Scotland at Murrayfield in a World Cup qualifier. That's a memory all right! He also played for Portugal at Sevens in the World Cups of 1997 and 2001 and in the IRB Sevens World Series.

He had a full playing career.

Standard of rugby in Portugal? "There is a marked difference to the style of rugby being played in Portugal now compared to when I first arrived. Back then, the emphasis was on offensive rugby, not a lot of organisation or thought was put into it but it was fast and fun. Nowadays, the is more focus on defence. The players are a lot stronger now, training harder and therefore much bigger. Nevertheless, the skill level is extremely high and what the Portuguese players may lack in stature compared to their opposition, their agility, speed and skill will normally see them pull off results against teams much bigger."

After all that playing all over the world, why on earth take up refereeing: "I started reffing in 2002. I was still playing at the time, but would play on Saturday and then back up and do two junior level games on the Sunday.

"Only since 2006 have I been doing senior rugby. I saw a real need to get involved in the refereeing here in Portugal as most of the refs at the time were coming towards the end of their careers and there didn't seem to be any new faces taking their place.

"After I stopped playing, refereeing still allows me to be out on the field, running, thinking under pressure, reading the attack/defence - but without the bumps and bruises."

Progress? "I have made rapid progress through the ranks here in Portugal. I was thrown straight into the deep end my first season doing our premiership. At the end of last season I was ranked No.1 in the country. I am now an international referee within the FIRA set-up."

That led to his first Test - Monaco against Bosnia Herzegovina on 11 October, 2008 in Monte Carlo. "What a place to start!"

People have helped. "During the Hong Kong Sevens of 2000 I was introduced to Wayne Erikson, the famous Australian referee. The discussion we had convinced me to get into it. I am also privileged to have the help of a good friend Scott Young, now retired IRB referee. Locally I have had lots of help from my very good friend and colleague João Mourinha and from Jorge Mendes de Silva, one of Portugal's refereeing legends."

Role models? "João Mourinha, Scott Young, Jonathan Kaplan and without a doubt Alain Rolland."

Mentioning Alain Rolland naturally pricks up the ears, for he, too, amongst top referees is a rara avis - the international player who is now an international referee, the referee for the World Cup final last year.

"I haven't met him but he is a great role model for someone like myself. He was a great player - I saw him during the 1993 World Cup Sevens up in Edinburgh - and now he's one of the best referees in the game. I believe his composure and rapport with the players is a great example for all."

Any comparison between playing success/achievements and refereeing success/achievements? "Worlds apart. As a player any success is put down to team work. They are great achievements. As a referee, any achievement brings great personal satisfaction. Yes, we too work within a team, but if you're the man in the middle and things 'go your way', it's great for the confidence."

How does having played help refereeing? "At first it takes a while to adjust your running angles. I was often finding myself running supporting player lines and getting in the way. That's better now! It helps with the understanding of what a team is trying to achieve and therefore being somewhat sympathetic to their cause!

"I would have to say that I tend to rely more on my knowledge of the 'game' than the law book. Although that is now going the other way with the introduction of the ELVs and the recent IRB guidelines with regards to the ruck and maul."

What you try to achieve as a referee: "A game that is played hard but fair, fast and dynamic. I try and get across nice and early in a game that I'm here to help the players enjoy themselves, if that's what they want. If it isn't, things get sorted pretty quickly.

The future? "Things are moving pretty fast for me at the moment. I would like to continue now on the International scene with FIRA for as long as I can, but also get the opportunity to work with the IRB as well at some stage. I have been invited to develop my skills in England with the RFU under the guidance of Steve Leyshon on an exchange program which I hope to see happen sometime in the near future."