Hunt, Munster the Maroons' men of the moment
Seizing the moment. It's an ability that makes NRL players into Origin heroes. They appear so rarely in those frantic 80 minutes, and they disappear so quickly.
Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith have been the best exponents of the skill for a decade.
Now they're gone.
In their place are two Queensland halves who understand exactly what that innate ability can mean in State of Origin. Yet they've had little time to confront it. Certainly not together.
Cameron Munster and Ben Hunt know they didn't "nail" the science of grasping the moments as well as they aspired to in Origin I. Yet they learned, in their first game as a halves partnership after a poor preparation in which they trained just twice together, how important it is to not let a second chance slip.
Hunt is to the point.
Game two in Sydney on Sunday is the biggest challenge in the career of the Telstra Premiership's form halfback. He doesn't hide from that.
"Without a doubt," he says of that observation, adding that he will go into game two a whole lot better prepared than he was in game one when he missed the first few training sessions because of a corked thigh.
"It's a massive responsibility – my job to lead the team around the park and get us to where we need to be and call the plays.
"I know there is a great hole left there by a couple of the greats [Thurston and Cronk]. I need to come out and do my part now.
"I need to run the ball more. I didn't take opportunities enough in the first game."
In other words, he didn't convert or create "the moments".
Neither, feels Munster, did the Maroon in number six. The door opened just a little bit, he can remember, but they weren't good enough the charge through.
And for so long Queensland have suffered that so rarely compared to the Blues. How often did Thurston, Cronk or Smith nail "the moment" while NSW had a passing parade of halves trying to find that status?
"It's about taking the moment when you know it's there," explains Munster of those flashes of attacking opportunities that disappear as quickly as they emerge on the Holden State of Origin stage.
"There are times when people know when there's a moment [that can decide a match] that comes and you have to take advantage of. But you have to create moments as well.
"Everyone knows how quick Origin is and, before you know it, it's finished.
"You need to be in the moment, and own it; you can't be in and out of the moment. I felt sometimes in the first game we were in and out of the moment and we can't do that against a quality NSW outfit."
So what is the innate extra sense or skill of seizing those rare moments that matter more in Origin than any other match?
"It's an awareness thing, for sure," says Munster.
"But it's also a matter of basically just being smarter with how we do things in the heat of battle. There was miscommunication between players at times and it hurt us in game one.
"It's all about little things that turn into big things.
"That's something I have to take on board and it's something that Smithy prides himself on – the little things in a game that turn into big things. For him they eventually did in Origin.
"And we're talking about losing two greats of the game in the halves [Thurston and Cronk] who are known for big moments in their careers. It is something they'll be most remembered for.
"That doesn't come overnight. It comes with experience."
Hunt, 28 and four years on from making his Test debut, and Munster, 23 and with a premiership and four Origin games behind him, had only played twice together - in game two last year when Hunt came off the bench and Munster was five-eighth and for Australia against Lebanon in the World Cup when Munster played centre and Hunt came off the bench.
Both have shown enough, and often enough, that they are capable of walking away from ANZ Stadium on Sunday as saviours.
Munster, too, admits it's somewhat a watershed match for him after progressing so far in the past season and a half.
"I guess people see a lot in a player when they're the front-runner but it's always good to see what people can do when their backs are against the wall," he said. "That's the test for me now; I know.
"Ben and I just need to get more combination; we didn't have a lot of time together before game one.
"And then we had Billy [Slater] drop out. His return is going to be massive for us in the halves; his talent, talk and his experience.
"I have to let Hunty steer the team around and ask for the ball when I need it, and when I see something, grab it.
Match: Blues vs Maroons
Game 2 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium
- Nine Network
"He's the form halfback of the competition and he's got confidence out of that. If he brings that confidence on Sunday, we'll be fine.
"I think the critics were harsh on Hunty [after the first game]. I thought Ben Hunt was pretty good for us.
"He kicked a 40-20 from dummy half when we needed momentum and he got us on the front foot, and we got a chance to score on that set.
"We need to get more structure and shape and get more bodies in motion.
"That's something we, as the halves, need to get sorted.
"If we do that; hopefully we'll create those moments that can win us the game."
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