'Best club man I've ever coached': Craig Bellamy's huge compliment for unlikely star

Scott Bailey

Craig Bellamy hailed Ryan Hoffman as the greatest clubman he's ever coached after the veteran back-rower announced his impending retirement on Tuesday.

One of the last members of Bellamy's golden era still in Melbourne, Hoffman will end an NRL career that so far includes 319 NRL games, three grand final wins, six Australian Tests and 14 State of Origins for NSW.

The 34-year-old debuted under Bellamy in the coach's rookie season of 2003, and the veteran mentor last month listed him as one of the players that made him want to stay in Melbourne.

"He's probably the best club man I've ever coached," Bellamy, who played with Hoffman's father Jay at Canberra, told reporters on Tuesday.

"Sometimes when you get guys who are really team orientated, they can be less competitive than other players. It's a fine balance at times.

Craig Bellamy has heaped praise on the retiring Ryan Hoffman. Pic: Getty

"But the one thing with Hoff, he's been a great clubman but he has always had that competitiveness as well."

The announcement comes after he was one of Melbourne's best in their win over the Sydney Roosters on Friday night, twice charging down Cooper Cronk field-goal attempts as Bellamy claimed he could play on another year.

But he'll instead take up a role in the club's football department, after having completed a bachelor in business and already locked in further studies at Harvard University this summer.

However he took Bellamy's "clubman" compliment as the biggest accolade.

"That's a very big rap because we've had some fantastic club men since I've got here," Hoffman said.

"Within rugby league I just didn't want to take anything away from it. The club and the game has given me so much, all I can do is not take away from it.

"The club doesn't owe me anything, the NRL doesn't owe me anything. I owe them everything for letting me play."

Hoffman played in the stripped 2007 and 2009 premierships before moving to Wigan in 2011 following the salary cap scandal.

Melbourne back-rower Ryan Hoffman will retire at the end of the NRL season after over 300 games

He won a Challenge Cup there before returning to claim the 2012 NRL title with the Storm, and later captained the Warriors before again coming back to Melbourne this year.

He last played for Australia in 2014 and was named NSW's player of the series in their drought-breaking series win that year.

"What made the decision easier is that I've managed to do something that not many players do and that is tick every box in rugby league that I wanted to do," Hoffman said.

"After what happened in 2010, going away in 2011 and coming back in 2012 and winning the premiership, there was a bit of vindication there.

"Breaking the streak for the Maroons playing for the Blues in 2014, that was a massive highlight.

"Because it was looking there for a while that would be the one thing I was going to miss out on."