Hunt's fortune found in green and gold
It is customary for the rugby league loving people of Papua New Guinea to try to touch visiting Australian players so that good fortune may rub off on them; for those who got up close to Kangaroos rookie Ben Hunt last weekend, they're in for one hell of a year.
Hunt was one of 10 Kangaroos debutants named in Tim Sheens's 24-man Four Nations squad on Tuesday little more than 12 months after finally being handed the keys to the Brisbane Broncos' No.7 jersey.
At the end of a breakout season it's been an extraordinary couple of weeks for Hunt who signed an extended and upgraded deal to stay at Brisbane, swept the awards at the Broncos' presentation night, flew to PNG to play for the Prime Minister's XIII, moved into a new house with girlfriend Bridgette Hagan and then found out his boyhood dream of playing for Australia is a step closer to becoming a reality.
Little wonder he was a popular man when the Prime Minister's XIII team arrived in Kokopo for their annual clash last Sunday.
"I had plenty touching me for good luck; I shook about 2000 hands before the game," Hunt said still trying to absorb the enormity of his rise through the ranks. "Everyone just wants to shake your hand and get photos so it was a really good experience.
"I haven't been in scenes like that, it's a different world up there. They love their rugby league like crazy and just to see the passion and the commitment they have for their footy is something else.
"I'm very privileged to get the opportunity to play up there and it's one of the most physical games I've ever played. They were all coming at you... it was tackling a fridge but it's definitely been great.
"I pinched myself that I got into that Prime Minister's team that played on the weekend and we got up there and played a good game of footy and getting that news this morning I'm naturally over the moon."
Although he wasn't formally advised of his selection in the Kangaroos squad until Tuesday morning – as he was in the throes of moving into his new digs at Bridgeman Downs – Hunt said that coach Tim Sheens made it clear in PNG that good performances for the PM's XIII would translate into selection for the Four Nations.
"We had a little chat up there but he didn't give me a hint that I was going to get picked though," said the 24-year-old. "He just said that there would be some plays get picked out of this team and if the boys here go out and out on a good game on the weekend that they'll be picked.
"[Receiving the PM's XIII jersey] was a big moment. We walked into the room and we had all our jerseys laid out on our chairs for us and Tim Sheens presented them to us like that.
"I held the jersey just to have a look at it and it's something you only dream about. To pull it on... what a great feeling."
Hunt's rise hasn't been all great feelings however. The 2008 NYC Player of the Year spent five years biding his time playing a role for the Broncos off the bench, a role that tempted him to look elsewhere but may now be the key to playing for Australia.
In his first five seasons in the NRL Hunt played 65 games from the bench and two at hooker but says solidifying his place as the Broncos' first-choice halfback has been integral in rediscovering his potent running game.
"Doing that hard work playing at hooker for a few years might have got me over the line," Hunt conceded as he vies with Robbie Farah for the utility spot on the bench.
"I was happy to play in the Broncos side anywhere at that stage and playing at hooker... I didn't really want to be there but that's where I needed to be in the team and I was happy to do that and I think it's going to pay off for me.
Growing up I was always a big runner [of the ball] playing in the halves and liked to run the ball and that got taken away from me a bit when I went to No.9 and I just didn't feel that comfortable running out of there and out of place.
"Getting back to where I always wanted to be and where I enjoyed playing felt really comfortable to start running again.
"I spent a lot of years playing off the bench and had that burning desire to cement a starting spot and to get that at the start of the year felt really good for me and to finish off the year the way I have it's definitely a dream come true."