Hampton gets better, not bitter
Ben Hampton is living the phrase 'Don't get bitter, get better', using the off-season arrival of Blake Green at the Melbourne Storm to further help develop his own game.
Despite just a handful of appearances for the Sunshine Coast Falcons in the Intrust Super Cup this season Hampton has earned selection in the Queensland Residents team to face the VB NSW Cup Representative Team at Brisbane's Tapout Energy Stadium on Sunday.
He is one of 12 NRL-contracted players lining up for the Residents against a NSW Cup team that boasts the likes of Nathan Gardner, Mitch Brown, Mitch Cornish and Will Matthews.
The Falcons currently sit 10th on the Intrust Super Cup table thanks largely to Hampton's direction at five-eighth and the influence of fellow Storm players Kenny Bromwich, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Travis Robinson and Young Tonumaipea after running dead last in 2014.
Although he attracted interest from a number of other NRL clubs, Hampton committed himself to the Storm for a further two seasons last year but had his first grade aspirations muted when the club signed Green to partner Cooper Cronk in the halves after a successful stint with Wigan.
But rather than look for opportunities elsewhere, Hampton is absorbing as much information as he can so that when his next chance in the top grade comes along he is better prepared to make the most of it.
"He's an experienced player and he plays the same position as me and I've actually learnt a lot off 'Greeny'," said Hampton, who did admit to being initially disappointed by Green's recruitment. "I've learnt heaps off Greeny since he's been here and I think that's helped my game this year.
"He sort of went through the same thing that I'm going through now. When he was a bit younger he struggled in first grade when he was about my age and then he went overseas and was really successful and he's come back a great player.
"I'd love to be playing for Melbourne, I haven't played a game this year, but he (Green) is doing a great job at the moment. It's what we needed. I was a bit inconsistent last year and didn't take my opportunity as well as I should have but Craig (Bellamy, Storm coach) is telling me things I need to work on and hopefully I'm not too far out of the team."
The only way for fringe first-graders to force their way back into the top team is take the right attitude back with them to the state competitions in what at times can be difficult circumstances.
With the Storm's new affiliation with the Sunshine Coast, Hampton and others train all week in Melbourne before flying north to link up with their Falcons teammates, sometimes on the day of the game.
For those with aspirations of playing in the NRL the expectation is that they are the dominant player when they drop back to reserve grade and Hampton said any mental battles are simply motivation to ensure stints in the lower grades are only ever short ones.
"There have been a few games where we've actually flown up on the morning of the game, played that afternoon and then flown back that night," said Hampton, who will partner Storm clubmate Shaun Nona in the halves for Queensland Residents.
"It's not the ideal situation but you're not meant to be comfortable in reserve grade. You want to get out of there and I know personally that pushes me to try and get out of there a bit more.
"It makes me want to go pretty hard on the field and try and get out of there and I think a lot of boys are the same. They don't want to be spending five hours on a plane every weekend but sometimes you've just got to suck it up and do it.
"It does get tough; it's a massive attitude thing. If you go up there with a crap attitude it's going to be a bad weekend for you."
Despite his struggle to force his way into the Storm 17 so far this season, Hampton has no regrets about spurning interest from the likes of North Queensland, Canberra and Cronulla to stay in Melbourne, telling NRL.com that he does not want to leave until he has shown the club what he is truly capable of.
"I did get the chance to probably go home last year but I wasn't happy with the way I finished the year last year with Melbourne," said Hampton, who moved from Temora to Mareeba in North Queensland prior to attending high school.
"They gave me the chance in first grade and I probably didn't take it with both hands and I wasn't really happy with that. I would have hated to have left there without giving it one last real go. I just didn't feel finished and wanted to see what else I could do there."
The Queensland Residents host the VB NSW Cup Representative team at Tapout Energy Stadium in Brisbane on Sunday at 1.30pm. The match will be broadcast by Channel Nine.