Hunt learnt from the best
Having learnt from Johnathan Thurston during Origin, Broncos No. 7 Ben Hunt must now match the game's premier half to keep Brisbane's season alive.
Called in to Queensland camp ahead of Game Two after injury rubbed out Cooper Cronk and had back-up Daly Cherry-Evans in doubt until the eleventh hour, Hunt trained alongside Thurston at the base of the Maroons' scrum for the majority of the week, a fitting reward for his stellar early season form.
Now, after a weekend spent on tenterhooks awaiting the losses from the Eels and Warriors that snuck the Broncos into the eight, Hunt will square off against the two-time Dally M winner in Saturday night's blockbuster elimination semi-final in Townsville.
No playmaker in the game has as much bearing on his side's fortunes as Thurston, and a week after being schooled in the art of halfback play by Cronk, who was able to close out Melbourne's final round win over the Broncos when Hunt was found out with a couple of crucial last-tackle options, the 25-year-old will again find himself facing off against one of the best of the business.
But if Hunt finds himself under the pump against a man many are dubbing a future immortal, Broncos captain Corey Parker says Hunt's stint alongside Thurston will stand him in good stead.
"He was a sponge," Parker says of Hunt's time spent with Thurston during his first Origin camp.
"In that Origin series with no Cooper and Daly was injured at the time he got the opportunity to run the boys around and learn from ‘Thursto’... and I did notice a difference when he came back.
"I was obviously in Origin with them so I was able to witness it. He's grown every week for us and playing No. 7 that's what you need to do and he's done a great job for us this year.”
Pressed on exactly what Hunt brought back from the game's highest level, Parker highlights the very same qualities that have delivered Cronk and Thurston 44 Origin caps, 53 green and gold jumpers and a trio of premiership rings between them.
"He's pretty old school ‘Hunty’, in the way he approaches things," Parker tells NRL.com.
"Just the way he approaches things, not too much seems to faze him, and I guess that's just been even more the case since [Origin].
"He just goes about his business as per usual. He's old school in the way he prepares and what he does.
"They're two of the best [halves] in the game for him to spent some time with in the Origin series this year, and that's what they do so well, and he learnt from them as well."
With coach Anthony Griffin given his marching orders in order to make way for prodigal clipboard carrier Wayne Bennett's return to Brisbane next season, the players know that each week could be Griffin's last at the club.
But as much as they'd love nothing more than to send Griffin out a winner in his final year at Red Hill, Parker says the side cannot afford any thoughts about sticking it to the board responsible for showing the popular mentor the door.
"It's not all about ‘Hook’, it's about everyone involved and he's part of that," Parker says.
"Our philosophy hasn't changed since November last year, regardless of what's been going on.
"Our focus has been to play semi finals and the grand final, and that has not changed. It's been a long year, it's been a marathon and now we're down to the last month.
"From our point of view, we can't concentrate on anything else, and won't be concentrating on anything but this weekend.
"We'll be doing everything we can to make sure we're there next week. There's eight teams left, next week there's six and hopefully we're a part of that."