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Ben Hunt on grand finals, social media and Dragons ambitions

Queensland's chance to host the 2021 Telstra Premiership grand final is history in the making but proud Maroon and Dragons captain Ben Hunt is happy to see the match return to Sydney long-term.

Hunt's Dragons bowed out of finals contention with a horrid losing streak to end the season but the playmaker is already planning for an improved campaign in 2022.

Hunt shared his experiences of a decorated 13-year career thus far with as part of Youi's 'Life-Changing Moments' series.

Along with discussing the rollercoaster of emotions following the devastating 2015 grand final loss with the Broncos, one thing is for sure, Hunt's enthusiasm for the game of rugby league has never wavered.

With Suncorp Stadium set to host its first-ever grand final on October 3, Hunt weighed in on where future matches should be played.

"Grand final days as a rugby league player are very special and whether you're in it or not, it's always enjoyable to watch," Hunt said.

"I'm a bit of a traditionalist and I think it's rightfully to be played in Sydney.

Life Changes series: Ben Hunt

"I'm a Queensland man and I love Suncorp Stadium, I think it's one of the best stadiums in the world, but I think the grand final belongs in Sydney.

"That's the biggest stadium we've got, and that's just the tradition and I'm more than happy for it to be there."

The build-up to the 2015 decider at Stadium Australia still sticks out in Hunt's mind like never before.

"The 2015 grand final was obviously a very special grand final and the week leading up to it, it was amazing," he said.

"The feeling when you get all the fans down at training, and then you get down to Sydney early and they have the grand final parades and things.

"It's just a really big build-up to the game and it's very special to be a part of. Something that you never going to forget as a player.

"The game was definitely a lot more intense than your normal NRL matches, everything just sort of goes up a level when you run out onto that full stadium.

"It's just full throttle and the only way I guess I can compare it is kind of like a State of Origin game where everyone's just gone flat out right from the whistle and until that siren goes at the end."

After a disruptive 2021 season that included a broken leg and arm, the 267-game veteran was reduced to just 15 games for the Dragons this year, his lowest tally since he made his NRL debut in 2009.

His move from the Broncos to Wollongong in 2018 came with enormous pressure given his much-publicised multi-million dollar contract he was offered by the Dragons.

"I'd definitely describe that as a massive life-changing moment for our family, myself personally, years before that, I never really dreamed that I'd play for a different team," he said of the move.

"I always wanted to play for the Broncos and when that came around and I finally made the decision that we were going to leave it was a massive decision for us and something I didn't take lightly.

Hunt: Don't let the team down

"The biggest challenge I've found with the spotlight and I guess the pressure is the expectations from people that you don't even know and the pressure that social media and the media in general put on you to perform every week.

"That was why I got away from social media, to not worry about and listen to what people you don't even know what don't matter say about how you're playing.

"I've learned just to listen to the people you trust, your coaches and your family. And you can take a lot more out of that than listening to 'old Joe Blow' on the streets."

One man Hunt has reunited with recently is Dragons coach Anthony Griffin, with the pair eager to ensure the Red V are on the big stage in 12 months' time.

Griffin was Hunt's under 20's coach at Brisbane in 2008 with their relationship a constant throughout his career.

Together they want to get the Dragons back into the premiership race.

"What draws me to keep pushing for an NRL title? For me, it's the dream from when I was a little boy. It's that little boy inside me that's always wanted to play in the NRL and to win a grand final, that's never left," he said.

"I've just got that desire to win a competition and do it for my family and my friends and everyone that's supported you throughout your career. And I think it's a little way of being able to give back to them as well.

"To be able to captain the Dragons to a title would absolutely mean everything. It would definitely be the dream come true.

"I think 2022 for the Dragons holds a lot of promise for us. We've got some new guys coming into the club, got a lot of young guys that played a lot of footy this year and are developing and coming along really well.

"And I think personally, I've got another year under my belt as captain and learning to be a leader.

"And I think there are big things for the club coming ahead. We've had Hook in as coach for a whole year now, and he knows the squad and knows what he wants.

"And I think it's only going to get better for 2022."

Acknowledgement of Country

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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