Hunt backs Pearce to make hooker switch

Test utility Ben Hunt is more than confident Mitchell Pearce could make the transition from halfback to hooker as easily as he and former Brisbane half Peter Wallace have done.

Hunt started the year with the Broncos at No.7 and ended the club season at No.9 following Andrew McCullough's season-ending knee injury. 

Hunt, will join St George Illawarra in 2018 as halfback, spent several seasons as the Broncos interchange hooker before being handed the No.7 starting spot. He then followed a path similar to former Broncos teammate Peter Wallace, who was first-choice halfback at the Red Hill club for six years before moving back to Penrith in 2014 and becoming the No.9.

"Yep, same sort of player, Mitchell," Hunt said when asked if the Sydney Roosters star could follow in Wallace's steps. "He's been a great halfback, moving him into hooker… he'll be a great player."

Pearce is currently overseas on holiday mulling over the choices in front of him now that Australian No.7 Cooper Cronk is on his way to the Roosters. Pearce can revert to an interchange hooker and half, press his claims at No.6, or seek the starting No.7 jersey at another NRL club.

"I haven't found it overly difficult," Hunt said of moving from first receiver to dummy half.

"I guess it's a little bit more physical and demanding on the body at the start. You're obviously doing more tackling and running in the middle and I had to adjust a little bit. 

"Mentally I adapted pretty well and played that position hooker a while back. I thought I changed over pretty well. I don't know if I have too much amazing advice [for Pearce]. But if he gets the opportunity or [is] forced to go to dummy half, he'll do a great job.

"He's got an excellent football brain… I don't think any position he plays will be too hard for him. He understands the game and knows what's needed of him whatever position he's in," Hunt added.

"If he has to play that position, the only thing that he'll have to change – as I had to – Is the physical role and being in the middle.

"The more time he's got with the ball in his hands, the better it will be for his team."

Hunt believes his eight games at hooker for the Broncos, following McCullough's season-ending injury in Round 21, helped him win favour with Australian coach Mal Meninga in the end. 

"If I didn't play hooker at the back half of the year I don't think I'd be in the team," Hunt said on Tuesday, after Meninga named him as the bench utility to play Lebanon at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.

"I feel like that's got me an opportunity to be picked in the side, having that versatility of playing in the halves and hooker as well. Whether Mal wants me to play in the halves or hooker this week, I'm not sure."

So sure was Hunt that he wouldn't be in Kangaroos squad that he and fiancée Bridget picked a wedding date of early November.

"Mid-season we'd set the date and booked it. We had to work around when the Broncos' season finished, the end-of-season ball and that, and settled on a date. We locked it in; I didn't think I'd be in the [Australian] camp at all."

But now Hunt is front and centre and after only two Queensland Origin camps with Test hooker Cameron Smith, he is looking for more time with the maestro.

"You learn a lot off him, but the most I've learnt from Cameron is watching him," Hunt said. 

"Before I even played hooker I never watched him that closely, but now I've been picked to play in the position I watch him more closely. Just the little things in his game, picking his moments when to run and when to kick, stuff like that. I just enjoy watching him more."