The Courier-Mail


- PETER BADEL @badel_cmail

BRONCOS supercoach Wayne Bennett has turned up the heat on NSW, saying his club halves, Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford, will ensure the Maroons dominate State of Origin until 2025.

As the Blues pick up the pieces from their Origin I defeat, Bennett labelled Milford, Hunt and Daly Cherry-Evans the Maroons triumvirat­e that would subject NSW to another decade of pain.

Bennett views Milford and Hunt as Brisbane’s most formidable halves since the Allan Langer-Kevin Walters union, and the duo tore the Raiders apart in Canberra on Saturday.

In their best combined display, Milford produced a game-high five tackle busts, while Hunt was superb, creating three tries and four linebreak assists in Brisbane’s 24-12 victory.

Bennett has played a key role not only in Brisbane’s revival but that of Queensland, presiding over the Emerging Origin system since 2001 when the Maroons’ fortunes and depth were at rock bottom.

Hunt, Milford and Cherry-Evans are graduates of Bennett’s QAS program and the master mentor warned the embattled Blues the misery would continue well after Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk retired.

“The Maroons are in a very fortunate position,” Bennett said. “We have the next generation of halfback and fiveeighth­s in Hunt and Milford.

“Queensland have now got Michael Morgan in the queue as well.

“When Johnathan and Cooper come to the end of their careers, these guys (Hunt and Milford) are going to take their place.

“Cherry-Evans is already there so in my eyes, with this group, Queensland have another decade of success ahead of them.”

While Cherry-Evans is widely viewed as Cronk’s successor, Hunt has emerged as a legitimate threat after his shock breakthrou­gh with the Australian side for last year’s Four Nations.

At 25, Hunt is 11 months younger than Cherry-Evans, while Milford, last year’s Queensland under-20s fiveeighth, is still six weeks shy of his 21st birthday.

When Cherry-Evans succumbed to injury in Camp Maroon last week, there was a push for Hunt to be his utility replacemen­t, only for selectors to opt for Cowboy Morgan.

Hunt said losing out to Morgan was further motivation to clinch his maiden Origin jumper.

“It was a little bit disappoint­ing to miss out, but I also knew I didn’t deserve to be there,” he said. “To be honest, I’m happy for Michael Morgan to get the start, he’s playing great football and he deserved the nod ahead of me.

“The selectors made the right call. I have to play better football if I want to be there, but the last two weeks I’ve been building and hopefully I’m in the mix again.”

Milford began the season slowly but Bennett says his new five-eighth recruit and Hunt are cultivatin­g a lethal combinatio­n.

“They can still get a lot better,” he warned. “But they are at least running the footy and they both want the ball, the rest we can finetune and get better.”

 ??  ?? NEXT GENERATION: Ben Hunt (left) and Daly Cherry-Evans are part of Queensland’s future. Picture: Peter Wallis
NEXT GENERATION: Ben Hunt (left) and Daly Cherry-Evans are part of Queensland’s future. Picture: Peter Wallis

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