Maroons halfback Ben Hunt.

Hunt ready to shoulder load in Origin series opener

Queensland halfback Ben Hunt said he is excited, rather than burdened, by being given the keys to the Maroons team.

With state greats Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston no longer on the Origin stage, Hunt has some big shoes to fill.

He told this week's Big League magazine that he welcomed the challenge.

''A lot of people have asked me if I'm burdened by the weight of a state after Kevvie [Maroons coach Kevin Walters] came out and said that he wanted me to take control of the side. If anything, I'm excited about it,'' he said.

"That's my role as a halfback and I'm used to it at club level. I'm grateful that Kevvie believes in me to do that at Origin level, and I've got to repay that faith and lead the team around.

"You only have to look at guys like Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Allan Langer to realise how special it is to wear this jersey.

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"Every Queenslander dreams of wearing the No.7 jersey for their state from the moment they kick the footy around for the first time."

The fact Hunt was playing for Ipswich in the Intrust Super Cup this time last year only adds to the pride the St George Illawarra halfback will feel will he runs onto the MCG on June 6.

"What makes this moment even more special is where I was a year ago," he said.

"I was dropped back to reserve grade to play for Ipswich, and since then, it's been a wild journey.

"I went back to Queensland Cup, got called up for game three, got an opportunity at the World Cup and now I'm wearing the seven this year at a new club.

"I've worked pretty hard over the past 12 months to get in this position."

The wily No.7 also dispelled any doubts over his fitness after he left the field with a cork during the Dragons' loss to Penrith last weekend.

"I'd play with one arm if it meant I could represent my state, and thankfully on Monday, I got the call from Kevin Walters," he said.

"I saw the phone ringing and Kevvie's name popped up and the heart started racing.

"It's hard to describe the feeling you get because it's something every rugby league player strives for." 

Witness Australia's greatest sporting rivalry when Origin comes to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday, June 6. Bronze tickets available from $49 HERE!