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Late blunder could cost Hunt a Kangaroos jersey

It was a moment of madness by Dragons halfback Ben Hunt and he knows those sorts of play-making choices are what might cost him his Australian Kangaroos jersey at season's end.

With the scores level at 12-12 against the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night, and a minute left on the clock, the Dragons were within 40 metres of their own goal line.

Hunt had the ball in hand on the fifth tackle but opted to pass it to his five-eighth Kurt Mann, who had no space to move, rather than boot it downfield and out of harm's way.

South Sydney half Adam Reynolds kicked a field goal off the next set to win the game 13-12.

"It was a pretty big error by me, to be honest. I thought we had a few numbers on the edge there and I tried to shift the ball," a dejected Hunt said in the dressing room post-match.

"I should have just played the percentage play and kicked on the last down their end but it was just an error on my behalf. 

Match Highlights: Rabbitohs v Dragons - Finals Week 2; 2018

"It’s very disappointing. They’re little things in a game that can change the outcome that gave them the field position. Credit to Reynolds, he’s a great player. He kicked three field goals in a row and that’s what hurt us."

Hunt's brutal honesty probably won't save him from another savaging by fans on social media, which he revealed in an interview with NRL.com had led him to seek counselling to keep his spirits up.

That lack of polish in big-game moments has haunted Hunt at times in recent years – think the 2015 grand final with the Broncos, the 2018 State of Origin series with Queensland, and the closing rounds of this Telstra Premiership season with St George Illawarra.

Hunt missed – not by much – a 69th-minute field goal to the left of the uprights at the northern end, whereas Reynolds such three in a row (70th, 77th, 80th minutes) at the other end of ANZ Stadium.

Halves are expected to nail most of those moments. And although Hunt's four Test jerseys form the 2014 Four Nations and the 2017 World Cup have all been off the bench – as Cooper Cronk occupied the starting role – moves like he made on Saturday night may count against him in 2018.

Australia will play New Zealand and Tonga in October.

McGregor: 'I'm not going to turn on a player'

"Of course, you’re always hopeful for those sorts of things," Hunt said of retaining his Kangaroos jersey.

"Going off form I probably haven’t done enough at the end of the year.

"I’ve had a couple of good games lately but there’s some quality footballers in the competition and still playing in the finals at the moment so we’ll just see how that goes."

Hunt was front and centre in the Dragons' marvellous start to this season – nine wins from their opening 11 games. He had 16 try assists, 12 line-break assists as well as seven tries on his own for the year. He scored the only try for the Dragons in Saturday night's semi-final.

His cause wasn't been helped with the serious shoulder injuries to Gareth Widdop but Kurt Mann stepped into the five-eighth role against Souths and didn't look out of place.

"I thought he was really good. But you take Gareth out of your side, Paul Vaughan was out tonight, and we lost Tariq [Sims] as well. It started to turn for us when he went out of the game [in the 41st minute]," Hunt said.

"You’ve got those quality players out it’s always going to be hard, but we still put in a good effort.

"It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster year, it’s one that I’m going to look back on and really appreciate. There’s been some good times and some hard times. Some lessons learned. Overall I’ve been quite pleased with the year."

Hunt slices through

If anyone has earned some time away from the spotlight, it is Hunt.

"I’ll have a little reflection, but I’ll get completely away from footy," he said of his immediate off-season plans.

"I’ll go up to Queensland and spend some time with family and friends and get away from it all."

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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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