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St George Illawarra halfback Ben Hunt said he allowed himself a moment of on-field reflection after Luciano Leilua's 68th-minute try in last Sunday's 48-18 finals defeat of Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.

After being so worn down by criticism in the previous eight weeks that he had begun consulting a psychologist, Hunt felt levels of triumph and relief he hadn't experienced since a round six defeat of Cronulla.

Not only had the Dragons stunned their detractors, they'd overcome the loss of five-eighth Gareth Widdop with a dislocated shoulder in the 57th minute. The way the team responded has given Hunt confidence heading into Saturday night's semi-final against South Sydney.

"I got a bit of a scare when they scored a try and Gareth got injured. I got a bit nervous then and thought, 'here we go', but when Luciano scored, that was probably the moment for me," Hunt said.

"I just remember walking back for the kick-off thinking, 'we've done it here, we're onto the next game'.

"It was a really happy feeling. I think it was a mix of relief and happiness that we'd got the job done. I think we had a good win down here [at WIN Stadium] against the Sharks, that was probably the last time I had the feeling of 'that's a pretty good win'."

Without Widdop for the last 23 minutes against Brisbane, Hunt had to take greater responsibility for directing the team around the field. St George Illawarra managed to increase their lead after their captain was taken from the field.

"It was a good feeling to know we could score some points once he was gone," Hunt said.

"We went on with it and that was the satisfying thing. It definitely makes you feel a lot more confident that you can do it. Everyone is happy and bouncing around at training."

Utility Kurt Mann, who has played all 25 matches for the Dragons this season, will wear the No.6 jersey against the Rabbitohs as he had done in the previous three matches after Widdop initially dislocated his shoulder in the round 22 loss to Parramatta.

Since then, the Dragons have won three of their past four matches, and Hunt and Mann said they had developed a good combination.  

"I know we didn't play the best footy or win all those games but I thought he did a great job in his role," Hunt said.

"We all know Kurt's a great runner of the ball and we just want to keep encouraging him this week that, if he sees an opportunity or sees something, we want him to take it on."

Mann said he wasn't going to try to emulate Widdop but would play his own game, which evolved since he joined Melbourne in 2013 as a replacement for the English star.

The Players' 13

During his four seasons with the Storm, Mann played centre, fullback and hooker for the NRL team or their Easts Tigers feeder team in Queensland's Intrust Super Cup, where he played alongside Rabbitohs five-eighth Cody Walker.

"Every chance I get to play in the halves I think it's a good audition for me," Mann said. "You can't pin it down to one game. If you want to play in the halves you have to be consistent.

"It's my most preferred position. Getting that opportunity is always good. Playing there is something I feel comfortable doing. Nothing has changed compared to the last few weeks where I've played there. I thought I played pretty well and I’ve performed pretty well overall."


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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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