Hunt's quest to be a top halfback faces test
BEN Hunt's development as a top flight NRL halfback and his decision-making progress this season faces a stern test against Manly star Daly Cherry-Evans at Brookvale Oval on Friday night.
The vastly improved form of the Brisbane Broncos playmaker has surprised a lot of critics this season and even drawn high praise from the likes of halfback immortal and Newcastle legend, Andrew Johns.
Last weekend he played strongly against Melbourne's representative halfback Cooper Cronk and this week he faces yet another huge battle with a player many believe in a few years will be playing and even leading Queensland and Australia.
Since being given the No.7 jumper by coach Anthony Griffin at the start of the season, Hunt's confidence has grown and he is now taking on the defensive line and troubling defences as well as proving a great last line defender himself.
"Ben's not doing anything we didn't know he could do. He's a strong little bugger and he's not afraid to take on the line and back his ability," said teammate Josh McGuire, who has promised to lift his game on Friday night to make his job against world class pair Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran a little easier.
"I'm very excited what Benny can do for this team he's a real match winner."
Prop Ben Hannant, meanwhile, has warned unless Brisbane gets its attitude right from the first tackle it could be a tough night at Fortress Brookvale, where the fans are right on top of the players.
Hannant, whose NRL career is in limbo with his contract up for renewal and Wayne Bennett heading back to the club next season, said Brookie was one of the grounds when the booing from the fans made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
"It will be pretty physical in the middle so we have to shake off our poor starts," he said.
"We have to make sure from the get-go we are jumping out of the blocks, that we fly out of the boxes like we did last time we played then (36-10 win at Suncorp Stadium) .
Like Hunt, new five-eighth Ben Barba faces his own personal battle since convincing Griffin to move him closer to the action to try and rediscover his attacking spark.
Barba admitted the pressure to reproduce his Dally M-winning season with the Bulldogs before he joined Brisbane had got to him a little but pointed out the styles the two teams played was quite different.
"It has (got to me) I won't lie but I don't want to dwell on it too much," he said.
"I'm hoping that form (Bulldogs) wasn't a fluke. It's my first year at the club and I've got another two years at the club so hopefully if I work very hard it will come back."