The return of Dragons playmaker Corey Norman from a fractured cheekbone could not have come at a better time for his Origin-weary halves partner after Ben Hunt was called upon to make 53 tackles five days before the round 13 win over the Bulldogs.
Hunt says if anything he was lucky to get a five-day turnaround from his 80 minutes at hooker for Queensland after some players were required to back up after just 48 hours in the two Friday night games.
But after five straight losses at club level trying to steer the ship virtually on his own, the relief for Hunt was evident at having a fellow halves leader back to take the pressure off as Norman barked orders and chimed in on both sides of the field with the pair combining for one try and one try-assist each in the Dragons' win over Canterbury on Monday.
"Having Corey back made the job a lot easier for myself – he's such a quality player and a good organiser and he steered the ship," Hunt said.
"It brings back a lot of balance, he's so creative and wants to organise and create things himself it takes a lot of pressure off me, there's not just one person out there doing it.
Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Dragons
"Him coming back in relieves the pressure on everyone across the team and we can play our own roles.
"He's such a classy player, as soon as he got here [to the Dragons] he hit the ground running, he was calling plays and directing blokes around and fitting in really well so I wasn't really surprised."
Hunt said his main focus leading into the Bulldogs game had just been to get his body right after the very unfamiliar experience of racking up a half-century of tackles in rugby league's fastest and most brutal arena.
"It's been a good five days. The body's pretty sore and fatigued but it makes it a lot easier when you get a couple of wins," Hunt said.
"The main thing I was thinking about all week was getting my body right. I was pretty sore for a couple of days after Origin so I was doing as much as I could to sort that out and get my head around getting through this 80 minutes then I had a bit more of a rest. Fix the body and convince yourself you've got 80 tough minutes to get through."
Norman said he was close to returning for the Sharks game in round 11 before the bye and had no concerns over his cheekbone during the game.
"I think it was the Cronulla game I was a chance to get back but that was probably pushing it a bit too early, that's when it would have played on my mind but with the bye and the long week turnaround playing on Monday it didn't pop into my head once which was good," Norman said.
"It was all right, it didn't pop up in my head first contact session. The doctor said it's probably going to be stronger than the other side now so that gave me a lot of confidence."
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Norman said he wasn't the slightest bit surprised he had been able to strike up a combination with Hunt quickly.
"We just love playing football, eyes-up football," he added.
"We don't stick to one edge, we like to roam, I thought we were good [against Canterbury] on each others' side a lot. We're just playing eyes-up football and having a go, playing a bit of footy.
"I tried to take a bit of pressure of Benny, it's been five days, he had a helluva game at hooker with plenty of defence. I thought all the Origin boys stepped up and brought a lot and showed a lot of leadership."