HUNTING FOR REDEMPTION
BEN Hunt is hungry for grand-final redemption as the makeshift Broncos hooker braces for a sudden-death showdown with Storm champion Cameron Smith in Melbourne on Friday night.
It is almost two years to the day since Hunt suffered the low point of his career, dropping the extra-time kick- off that preceded Johnathan Thurston’s field goal in Brisbane’s devastating 2015 grand-final loss.
But Hunt has shown the mental resolve to fight back and he shapes as a critical figure in Brisbane’s blueprint to ambush the Melbourne juggernaut in the preliminary final at AAMI Park.
Hunt, who will join the Dragons on a $6 million deal next season, played his final
home game at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night in Brisbane’s 13-6 semi-final disposal of the Panthers.
Now he faces one of the biggest challenges of his NRL career – attempting to outpoint the code’s greatest hooker Smith – as Hunt moves a step closer to the premiership ring that cruelly eluded him.
“It would mean everything to me,” said Hunt of his and Brisbane’s quest for a grandfinal triumph.
“That’s what we are playing the game for, you want to get to that big one (the grand final) and if I can do it in my last year at the Broncos ... I will be giving it my best shot.
“Cam Smith is the best hooker of all time and it doesn’t get easier, but we need to focus on the whole Melbourne side.
“He steers them around but it’s not just him we have to worry about – they are very good across the park.”
In the absence of injured rake Andrew McCullough, Hunt was outstanding against the Panthers.
Playing his seventh game at hooker, Hunt set up Corey Oates’ first-half try and produced a series of key defensive plays, including a late trysaver as the Panthers came storming home.
The Maroons ace is finding his groove in the No.9 jumper and admits the grav- ity of playing his final game at Suncorp in Broncos colours was a source of motivation.
“My fitness has gotten better every week,” he said.
“Defensively I have improved. I was missing more tackles to start off with and I needed to control what I did better (in defence), I needed to make some good contact.
“It sunk in during the warm-up that it would be my last game (at Suncorp) and in that moment I wanted to enjoy it.
“Once it was all over, I was pumped to get the win.”
The Broncos have won at AAMI Park twice in the past two years.