Hunt's time to shine as DCE told to wait

The Queensland Maroons dropped a selection bombshell on Monday, picking Brisbane Broncos halfback Ben Hunt as a utility ahead of in-form Manly Sea Eagles half Daly Cherry-Evans. 

It caps off a dramatic month for Hunt who just three weeks ago was playing for the Ipswich Jets in the Intrust Super Cup after being dropped by coach Wayne Bennett. 

Hunt has since returned to Brisbane's line-up, starring off the bench in his side's 10-point win over the Canberra Raiders in Round 16 before having a mixed performance in the Broncos' 30-point loss to the Melbourne Storm on Friday night. 

With Walters watching on, Hunt scored Brisbane's only first-half try as he steamrolled Maroons teammate Billy Slater from close range. One of the Broncos' only highlights from the match, Hunt's individual brilliance showcased the running game that Walters rates so highly. 

Hunt and Walters have worked closely in the past, with the pair helping Brisbane get to within one point of grand final glory in 2015. 

Halves coach at the Broncos in 2015, Walters helped Hunt put together his best season in a Brisbane jersey and he will be looking for more of that form come Game Three. 

"He's worn that jumper extremely well in the past and if he keeps playing the way he is then he will wear that jumper again next year." 

Kevin Walters on Daly Cherry-Evans

Hunt has runs on the board as a utility, playing 65 of his first 82 NRL games off the bench before playing three games for Australia in that same role during the 2014 Four Nations. 

For Walters, all this counted in Hunt's favour when deciding to pick him over the man they call 'DCE'. 

"We like what Ben can bring to the team. DCE came up in a lot of the discussion but Ben will be coming off the bench for us and we feel that in that role Ben can do a really good job for us," Walters said.

"He's a different [player] to DCE. I think if DCE was playing for us then he would have to be in the starting 13. 

"I think that's where he is going to play his best football for Queensland and we feel that Ben can bring a bit more value off the bench with the couple of roles we are going to designate towards him. 

"We are very excited about the opportunity Ben has been presented. I've worked with Ben for the last two or three years at both the Broncos and our QAS Emerging Origin Camps. 

"We like what we see in Ben and he could possibly be the future for the Maroons as well."

Hunt's Origin debut means that Cherry-Evans will have to wait to add to his six matches for Queensland, but his time may come sooner rather than later as the Maroons prepare for life after Johnathan Thurston. 

Thurston's Origin career is now over and Walters hinted that Cherry-Evans could be his long-term replacement from as early as next year. 

With Cooper Cronk also yet to commit to playing on in 2018, the stage is set for the 28-year-old to return to the Origin arena in the near future. 

Walters insisted that had always been the case, taking a swipe at those in the media who have questioned Cherry-Evans's future in Queensland's system. 

"I also want to mention that DCE's Origin career is well and truly alive. That's the thing that excited him more than anything else," Walters said.

"He was most disappointed with the media and what has been a pretty personal attack on him saying that certain members of this team and the Queensland Rugby League don't accept him. 

"That's probably the most disappointing thing for him and I agree with him. 

"These rumours are complete nonsense. 'Hogwash' was the word I used this morning about him not fitting into the Maroons' set-up. It couldn't be further from the truth. 

"When you wear the Maroons jumper you are a part of a great team and a great family. 

"He's worn that jumper extremely well in the past and if he keeps playing the way he is then he will wear that jumper again next year." 

With Cherry-Evans overlooked it means either Cameron Munster or Michael Morgan will start in Queensland's No.6 jersey, with the other to line up in the centres as a replacement for the injured Darius Boyd.