How Good Is... Ben Hunt

The simple answer to that question is this: A hell of a lot better than we thought he was this time 12 months ago.

Finally handed the keys to the Broncos halfback job after four full seasons of starting the game from the sidelines, Hunt went within a whisker of being named the NRL's best player in 2014, was invited into the inner sanctum of Queensland Origin camp as cover for Daly Cherry-Evans, and then on the back of another fine display for the Prime Minister's XIII in Papua New Guinea was one of 11 Kangaroos rookies named in the final Four Nations squad.

Again it was an injury concern over Cherry-Evans that earned Hunt his first Kangaroo call-up against England in Melbourne and shortly after his introduction he scored the crucial try that got the Aussies' campaign back on track.

No wonder the locals in PNG tried to touch him for good luck.

The under-20s player of the year six years ago, Hunt was able to parlay his outstanding season into an extended and upgraded deal to remain in Brisbane with his loyalty to the club holding him back from truly testing his worth on the open market.

After five years in the NRL there can hardly be concerns over Hunt suffering from 'second-year syndrome', but there will be pressure to prove that he wasn't merely a one-hit wonder.

What made 2014 so special?

Forget the fact that Ben Hunt was finally given an opportunity to prove himself as an NRL No.7, he almost single-handedly dragged the Broncos into the finals. Starting the year with Josh Hoffman as his halves partner, in Round 19 Hunt was handed another offsider with virtually no experience as a five-eighth when Ben Barba slotted into the No.6 jersey.

The responsibility to hold the team together and cobble together a functioning attacking structure fell solely on Hunt's shoulders and he responded in the most magnificent fashion.

He finished third in the NRL for line breaks with 20 (behind only Jarryd Hayne and Alex Johnston), he was ranked eighth for try assists with 19 and only Dale Copley (16) scored more tries for the Broncos than Hunt's 13.

The maturity he displayed both on and off the field made 2014 the year Ben Hunt came of age as a first grade footballer.

How can he be better in 2015?

With responsibility comes pressure and there were times during the season where Hunt's last-tackle options let both himself and his team down.

His 8,668 kicking metres represented more than 63 per cent of the Broncos' total kicking output for the season, with hooker Andrew McCullough the next best with 1,982m, making Hunt a marked man by opposition players looking to exert pressure.

He was also a target in the defensive line with his 79 missed tackles placing him in the top 10 in the NRL in that category.

Much was expected of Hunt in 2014 and he delivered on almost every front; the good news is that in 2015 help is on its way.

Which new signing will have the greatest influence on him?

The only way the addition of Anthony Milford could possibly be a detriment to Ben Hunt is if the Broncos' chief playmakers spend 26 weeks fighting over who will get to touch the ball more.

With Wayne Bennett now back in charge, we're quietly confident that won't be the case.

Although Milford only kicked the ball on 54 occasions in 2014 compared to Hunt's 288, his mere presence on the opposite side of the field will be enough to ensure the Brisbane No.7 has more time and space to plot his next move.

Milford has already stated that he will fit into whatever structure coach Bennett wants to implement but it his instinctive nature and unpredictability that shapes as the greatest asset to Hunt's game management.

It has the potential to be a halves combination to rival that of any in the NRL and if they can find their groove early they could become the most exciting Broncos pairing since the days of Langer and Walters. 

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