Broncos half Ben Hunt is sharpening his short kicking game with help from club legend Allan Langer. Copyright: Ian Knight/NRL Photos Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Broncos halfback Ben Hunt has enlisted one of the best exponents of the short kicking game to ever play rugby league in an attempt to make a quick transition to the new rule regarding balls kicked over the dead-ball line.
In the opening weekend under the new rules it was clear that the new ruling whereby the defending team gets seven tackles from a 20-metre restart after a ball is kicked dead in-goal caused many of the kickers to be gun-shy, with far less cross-field bombs into the in-goal area and much fewer grubber kicks rolling past the try-line into the in-goal.
Hunt and new five-eighth Josh Hoffman were criticised for their kicking games in last Friday's win over the Bulldogs in Sydney and have tapped into the extraordinary talents of Allan Langer in order to build more pressure against the Cowboys on Friday night.
Langer's ability to run to the line, drop the Steeden onto his right foot and nudge it through the line back on an angle before regathering – often to score – seemed almost impossible to defend against in the Broncos halcyon days through the 1990s and he has been working closely with Hunt in recent weeks to impart that knowledge.
"He's a bit shorter old 'Alf' but he definitely had a good short kicking game," Hunt said as the Broncos prepare for their traditional derby against the Cowboys.
"He had a little word to me about that and he said just to get my mind clear and know before I get the ball where I'm going to kick and what I'm doing. Just have a clear thought about what I'm doing with my kick before I get down there and not to be in two minds."
While admitting that it will take some adjusting to, Hunt said he was in favour of the new rule and will continue to work on making sure the end to Broncos' attacking sets doesn't let the opposition off the hook.
"I think it's a good rule. It puts a lot more pressure on the kickers not to kick it dead and I guess it's a good rule in that some teams were kicking long and kicking it dead on purpose to get their defensive line down and set so I think it's a good rule," Hunt said.
"We've definitely done a bit of talking about it and it's something that 'Hook' (Broncos coach Anthony Griffin) wants us to really focus on, not getting that ball to the dead-ball line, it's something we'll be working on this week.
"Just working on little touches down that end; not kicking the grubbers too long and not kicking your cross-field kicks into the in-goal and stuff like that. Alfie has been coming in and doing a couple of little things with us the last couple of weeks so that's been helping."
As he endeavours to bed down a new partnership with Hoffman, Hunt's education this week won't be confined to field sessions with the legendary Langer. For the past couple of years he has been studying the work of Cowboys and Maroons legend Johnathan Thurston and gets to put into practice against the man himself at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
"They've got a great side and any side with Johnathan Thurston in it is always going to be a good football team," the 23-year-old said. "We've really got to be on top of our game this week if we want to get a win against them.
"The last couple of years I've definitely taken a bit of a look at [Thurston] and the way he plays his football. I see him as one of the best halves to ever play our game and just some of the things he can do and the patience he has in a game is something I'm really trying to learn from."
The Broncos got a further boost on Monday with Andrew McCullough's Grade 2 careless high tackle charge meaning Channel Nine's man of the match will be available to play should he take the early guilty plea.