The Courier-Mail

Get in the Hunt, Ben urged

- PETER BADEL

WAYNE Bennett has challenged Ben Hunt to step up as a dominant playmaker amid concerns the halfback lacks the last-play polish to deliver a Broncos premiershi­p.

Hunt is under pressure to steer Brisbane to victory against premiers Souths tomorrow night after failing on Saturday night to dismantle a Roosters side that lost halfback Mitchell Pearce to injury.

The Broncos No.7 is the NRL’s most prolific kicker with 9518m, leaving second-placed Daly Cherry-Evans (7002m) of Manly in the shade.

But Bennett believes there is scope for refinement from Hunt in terms of his gamemanage­ment.

Broncos five-eighth legend Darren Lockyer was one of the code’s finest practition­ers at closing out games.

He believes Hunt’s efforts against the Roosters in Round 24 and Souths tomorrow at Allianz Stadium will gauge his ability to win sudden-death finals for the Broncos.

“This period is a good test for Ben’s self-belief that if the Broncos get into a winning position he can close a game out,” Lockyer said.

“If Ben can do that, it would alleviate some doubts just within his own mind.

“As good as he’s going, you need to conquer something to get that self-belief that you can do it consistent­ly.

“The Broncos have some big games coming up and if he can come out with a strong performanc­e and get his lasttackle plays right, it will set him up for the finals.”

On the eve of the Roosters clash, Bennett critiqued Hunt’s developmen­t in his second season as Brisbane’s chief shotcaller.

After Pearce hobbled off after 16 minutes on Saturday, the Bondi club repelled Brisbane’s offensive raids, illustrati­ng the challenges Hunt and halves partner Anthony Milford face in the playoffs.

“Ben’s much improved but he’s still not where we want him to be,” Bennett said.

“He has improved a great deal so hopefully over the next few weeks he can put the finishing touches on.

“He has worked hard to finish our sets well but we need him to be as close to 100 per cent as he can be.”

DAVID Stagg was already the last of a dying breed and now that he is retiring, the 90kg lock is seemingly extinct.

Stagg has tackled men at least 10kg heavier than him his entire 205-game, 13-season, career for the Broncos and Bulldogs and one State of Origin game for Queensland.

In 2004 he set an NRL record for tackles in a game with 64 – a mark equalled this year by Andrew McCullough.

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