Hunt happy to be benched
Broncos halfback Ben Hunt is willing to turn back the clock and reprise his role as a utility interchange in order to snare a spot on the Maroons' bench for Game Three of the 2014 Holden State of Origin Series.
Hunt's form has been on a steady incline since his switch to the No.7 jumper in Round 20 last year and he has now soared to dizzying heights at the halfway mark of the 2014 NRL season.
Stuck in the shadows of Darren Lockyer, Peter Wallace and Scott Prince as the Broncos' chief playmaker since he made his debut in 2009, the 24-year-old has played 65 of his 103 NRL games either at hooker, five-eighth or as a utility dummy-half instead of his preferred halfback position.
Since the start of the season, Hunt has scored seven tries, orchestrated nine try assists and made 13 line breaks from 14 games at halfback. These impressive numbers have seen the Blackwater Crushers junior move up the Dally M table to be only one point behind Jarryd Hayne and Sam Burgess who are on 18 points each after Round 15.
Hunt will have his final chance to impress Queensland coach Mal Meninga against the bottom-placed Sharks at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night as he looks to return to the Maroons squad for Origin III.
"I'd love to play in Game Three, obviously – if I get the chance," Hunt said.
"I'm not sure which way Mal's going to go with that, but if given the opportunity to go back into camp again I'd love to.
"I'd be happy to play anywhere in the team and if that [utility] role is where Mal wants me to play then I'd be happy to come in and do it."
The Maroons are likely to opt for a utility interchange for the dead rubber on July 9 after going into Game Two with four forwards on the bench.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy on Thursday quashed any suggestion that Cooper Cronk was set to make an early return from his broken arm on Monday night against the Dragons, instead suggesting he was still three or four weeks away from playing again.
Even if Cronk makes an earlier than expected return, Hunt can still provide extra injury cover to the Maroons after playing the same role leading into Origin II as standby to Daly Cherry-Evans.
Hunt revealed that there was no smoke and mirrors behind his selection prior to the second Origin match as he was just over 24 hours from wearing the famous Maroons' No.7 jersey before Cherry-Evans overcame a knee knock.
"They gave 'Cherry' up until Tuesday to prove his fitness so I didn't know until then," he said.
"He came out on Tuesday and trained really well – he was fit and looked good – so I just got told after that Tuesday session that he'd be playing."
Despite the disappointment of having a potential Origin debut snatched away on the eve of the match, the experience of being inside the Queensland camp was an invaluable one according to Hunt.
"I got the chance to be in an Origin camp with some of the best players in the world. It doesn’t matter whether I played or not, I took a lot out of that week," he said.
"You're around such great players and to be recognised that you can be at that level is something that makes you feel really good about yourself.
"You've got to keep up your consistency if you want to play in that sort of environment so I've got to keep that up each week at the Broncos and see how I go."