Hoffman up to Roberts NRL challenge: Bird

According to Greg Bird, James Roberts showed why he was the NRL’s best centre in Brisbane’s thrilling golden point win against North Queensland.

But Bird has backed Gold Coast teammate Josh Hoffman to step up in class in a one-on-one battle with the Broncos flyer and bolster the Titans’ left edge defence on Friday night.

Bird watched in awe as ex-Gold Coast teammate Roberts finally fired for new club Brisbane, notching 209m and a stunning try in the Broncos’ 21-20 extra-time thriller against the Cowboys last round.

“He showed why he was the Dally M Centre of the Year last year with the way he played last week,” Bird said of Roberts who left the Gold Coast in the off-season over a contract forgery bungle.

“That was one of the best games I have seen in a long time.

“And we expect a similar performance if not more involvement (from Roberts) this week.

“I am sure he will want to get one up on his former teammates.”

Titans coach Neil Henry admitted their left edge defence would be on high alert ahead of this week’s home clash after watching Roberts come alive in the NRL grand final re-match.

“(Anthony) Milford and Roberts came into the game with a few nice touches so there’s a lot of attack in them – our left edge will be fairly wary,” he said.

Bird believed former Kiwi fullback Hoffman was up for the challenge despite a hot and cold season start in his non-preferred position of centre.

“Hoffy is no slouch. He has played for New Zealand, represented at the highest level,” he said.

“He will give Jimmy Roberts a few headaches of his own.”

Bolstering the Titans’ left edge defence would not be easy, Bird admitted.

“We have been a bit scratchy on that left edge,” he said.

“There have been a few new players and players swapping around, it gets complicated working out combinations when you get rotated every couple of weeks.

“It is going to be a step up in class coming up against (Ben) Hunt, Roberts and (Matt) Gillett on our left but I am confident that the boys can do a job.”

Henry named an extended 20-man squad on Tuesday with a question mark over starting prop Ryan James (judiciary), hooker Nathan Friend (concussion) and five-eighth Tyrone Roberts (knee).

Eddy Pettybourne, Kierran Moseley and Cameron Cullen are on standby for the trio.

James will fight a dangerous contact charge at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday night.

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