Despite losing to the Roosters the Broncos largely tread water in our Power Rankings this week, courtesy of a five-tries effort against the 2013 premiers, including two to halfback Ben Hunt. Copyright: Col Whelan/NRL Photos Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Roosters and New South Wales halfback Mitchell Pearce has given Brisbane's Ben Hunt a glowing appraisal in the wake of his side's miraculous 30-26 come-from-behind win over the Broncos last Friday night, comparing his opposing No.7 to Queensland and Australian half Cooper Cronk.
Hunt, who not only had his greatest game in the coveted Broncos' No.7 jersey, but arguably the finest performance of his 92-game career, was denied what would have been a thoroughly deserved victory by his opposite number in Pearce who delivered the match-winning pass to Boyd Cordner inside the last minute at Suncorp Stadium to stun the Broncos and a crowd of 33,381.
Despite stinging the Broncos at the death on the farewell night to retired winger Jharal Yow Yeh, a teammate of Hunt's since their under-20s days, Pearce had nothing but admiration for the Broncos' playmaker after the full-time siren.
"He went really good; I thought he was close to one of the best players on the field," Pearce told NRL.com.
"He scored two tries and constantly kept threatening the line and he's a tough little bloke too.
"He reminds me a bit of Cooper Cronk – he looks a bit like him – but I thought he was really good. He was pretty impressive out there tonight.”
Hunt displayed Cronk-like footwork, vision and trickery by taking the line on to score two tries against the Chooks. He also made three line breaks, two try assists and pulled off some ruthless defence with 15 tackles.
The Broncos playmaker seemed to have his hands on everything against the defending premiers, however Hunt, who turns 24 on Thursday, still feels there is plenty more improvement to come as he enters his sixth season in the top grade.
"I felt I played one of my better games I've played for the Broncs," Hunt said.
"There were still times in the game where I fell out of the game and wasn't really contributing so I've still got a lot to work on."
The Rockhampton-born, Blackwater Crushers junior also highlighted the progressive improvement he has made with new five-eighth Josh Hoffman, as they continue to grow their fledgling relationship in the halves.
"I'm getting a bit more confidence each week. We've been training really good… me and 'Hoffy' have been working hard together," he said.
"So week by week I've got to keep improving to keep my confidence up."
They say confidence is contagious and that's why Hunt is making sure he doesn't get too far ahead of himself, refusing to be lulled into a false sense of security by reading into any favourable headlines scribed in the wake of his exceptional Round 3 performance.
"I don't really read into anything that's written. I have a look at it now and then, but it doesn’t really phase me. I just try and concentrate on my own game and play week-to-week," he said.
Broncos coach Anthony Griffin has seen plenty of Hunt since coaching him in the under-20s level in 2008, a season where they were beaten in the grand final by a Raiders team that boasted Josh Dugan, Jarrod Croker, Daniel Vidot and Shaun Fensom.
Now in his fourth season in charge at NRL level, Griffin can provide a credible character reference to Hunt's ability as a football player, having cast a keen eye over him for the past six years.
"He's a good player [and] that's what we're wanting him to do… to [get to] the point where against the premiers he can have a game like that – he's always had that potential," Griffin said.
"The key for Ben is to keep working and become consistent week in, week out against that type of opposition so he can peel off 24 games like that."