Ben hunts a Dragons title to catapult him back into Maroons No.7
Hungry to win back his Queensland starting position, Ben Hunt believes leading St George Illawarra to a premiership is the best way to regain the Maroons No.7 jersey.
First up, on Wednesday night at Suncorp Stadium, Hunt says he is determined to provide energy and zip for the Maroons against NSW in the potentially crucial No.14 jersey.
The 28-year-old Dragons playmaker lost the starting gig to Daly Cherry-Evans for not being able to take control and ice the game in the latter stages of the 18-14 loss to NSW in game two of the Holden State of Origin series in Sydney.
"I am extremely hungry to get back there," Hunt told NRL.com
"Halfback is the position I really enjoy playing and to get a taste of it is just the tip of it. I want more at this level.
"The first goal is to win a competition and I think we have put ourselves in a good position at the Dragons to go deep into the finals.
"That is something that is not out of our reach, and as a halfback I need to have a big role in that.
"That is also what the selectors and Kevvie [Walters] need to see from me, to play in the big games again and do the job."
Hunt will vie with Michael Morgan, Cherry-Evans and Ash Taylor into the future for the Queensland halfback's role.
The injured Morgan has the advantage of winning the 2015 grand final for the Cowboys in the halves and a World Cup for Australia.
Cherry-Evans is now the incumbent and a big performance at Suncorp Stadium will only assist his claims in 2019, while Taylor still has work to do to get himself at the top of the list.
Hunt was selected in the opening two Origin matches because he was the form half in the NRL.
Premiership-winning halves get another tick next to their names when selectors sit down to pick representative teams, and Cherry-Evans and Morgan have already achieved that.
"You can say you are playing well in all these [NRL] games, but if you get a premiership beside your name it certainly helps in the selectors books," Hunt said.
"That's why I want to show that I can get back out there and do it and get the Dragons into the grand final."
Hunt leaned on those closest to him when he was demoted to the bench, including his parents, wife and club coach Paul McGregor.
"Mum is always going to tell you that you are the best in the world and I had some good chats to my dad... and my wife loves getting stuck into the critics and supporting me," Hunt said.
"I had to settle down and let the waters settle and realise that I am still part of the Queensland team and to be grateful.
"My dad [Geoff] and Mary [McGregor] were both similar with their messages. They said to believe in myself and keep doing what I have been. The big message from Mary was that I will always be his halfback and he won't be moving me...unless I play pretty ordinary.
"He said 'we believe in what you are doing here mate and we want you to be the halfback long term."
Hunt was the target of criticism by former Queensland players and fans on social media for his game-two performance and he understands that is all part of being an NRL player.
"It is obviously there and there is nothing you can do about it. The best thing I have done is pretend it is not there and get away from it," he said of the keyboard warriors.
"They don't bother me anymore. Three, four or five years ago they might have but you get [criticism] that much now that you don't really care."
The bench utility position has been filled admirably in recent years for the Maroons by Morgan and Cooper Cronk, and Hunt expects more minutes than the handful he received in game three last year.
"Kevvie has told me I will get on at some stage in the first half. Whenever Cooper and Michael would get on the field they didn't hold back. They went after it and did their job and weren't worried they weren't playing half, five-eighth or fullback."
When the dust settles after the Origin series, his focus will be firmly on steering the Dragons to the grand final.
"We are positioned really well," Hunt said.
"I remember when I first made the grand final with the Broncos in the 2015 I didn't really believe we had the team to do it. I didn't know because I had never played in one.
"Once we got there I realised what a good team we had and I have that feeling with the Dragons now. It feels like we are really building something.
"If we can keep improving we can give the title a real shake. This is a massive part of the calendar year for any team that has a lot of players in Origin. We've got most of our forward pack in the NSW side and that is going to take a bit of sting out of it but it is the same for a lot of other teams."
Dragons fans will be pleased to know Hunt is carrying no baggage with him about his recent representative hardships. He mindset is clear.
"I have always been fairly happy and easy going in life, but I'd definitely say at the moment I'm in the best head space I've been in," he said.
"In our game things can change in days... seconds. You've just got to enjoy it while you can and make the most of it."