Hunt stars in final Broncos home game
Brisbane Broncos hooker Ben Hunt knew as soon as he walked out onto Suncorp Stadium on Friday night that he would not be leaving a loser.
Brisbane's 13-6 win over the Penrith Panthers in the NRL semi-final was Hunt's last match at the venue as a Bronco before he joins the St George Illawarra Dragons at season's end, and he certainly left it all on the paddock.
Hunt was Brisbane's best in the hard-fought win, defending for 80 minutes in the middle to make a career-high 45 tackles.
The 27-year-old was constantly first out of the line, putting in the effort and determination coach Wayne Bennett wanted to see from his men in the do-or-die showdown.
To top things off, Hunt was dangerous in attack, taking over the kicking duties and jumping out of dummy-half whenever his side needed a spark.
His passing game was also on show, throwing a beautiful ball to Corey Oates to set up his winger for the first try of the night.
Simply put, Hunt wanted the 38,623 fans in attendance to remember his last performance at Suncorp Stadium for the right reasons – and they will.
Speaking to media after the match, Hunt took time to reflect on his last game at the venue he first played on during 2008 when he won the National Youth Competition Player of the Year, playing for the Broncos.
"I just wanted to play my best on Friday night. It was my last game at Suncorp and I didn't want to leave here a loser. I wanted to do my best for the team," Hunt said.
"It sunk in during the warm-up that it was going to be my last game at Suncorp. I knew then I had to enjoy it and try and play my best to try and win the game. Once it was all over I was pretty pumped to get the win."
A quality halfback in his own right, Hunt first moved to hooker in Round 22 to cover for the season-ending knee injury to Andrew McCullough.
His transition to No.9 started well, coming off the bench and playing 50 to 60 minutes with the end goal to become an 80-minute rake.
He first achieved that 80-minute milestone in Round 26 and since then he has gone to another level in the middle, prompting some to question if it is his best position.
Bennett puts Hunt's great form down to fitness, saying his versatile utility was ready to keep playing after the final siren had sounded against Penrith.
"He reckons he wasn't tired when he came off. He wanted to go again. He was outstanding," Bennett said.
Stand-in captain Adam Blair starts with Hunt in the middle each week, often taking one of the first carries of the match off his service.
The Broncos prop was full of admiration when asked of Hunt's switch to hooker, praising his teammate's ability to defend above his weight.
"Ben's a competitor and I think we see that every week no matter what position he plays," Blair said.
"It's good seeing someone with his ability and his size come out of the line and try and get in front of those big boys.
"Ben's been really good for us. I enjoy playing beside him. He brings a lot of energy to our middle and he plays some good footy."
Hunt will need to be at his brilliant best again when the Broncos travel to Melbourne to face the Storm in Friday's preliminary final.