The Amazing Rise Of Ben Hunt

Hunt, Ben2By STEVE MASCORD

BEN Hunt has read too much negativity about a particular subject to really enjoy talking about it. So when he is asked about it, he tends to give short, polite, somewhat defensive answers.

That subject is: himself.

“Before the season started, a lot of people wrote me off,” the Brisbane Broncos player of the year tells Rugby League Week ahead of the Four Nations kick-off this Friday.

“People were saying ‘he’s going to be no good’ at halfback.. So I just tried to go out there and do what I could. I’ve learned not to read too much into things. There are always rumours and speculation and opinion.

“You can’t take it too seriously. You’ve just got to get on with your life.”

And this 24-year-old’s life is worth exploring, regardless of how expansive or not he chooses to be in discussing it. From being stuck at hooker to being struck by the sacking of ‘Hook’, it’s a rip roaring yarn of succeeding in one of the most famous jerseys in the game when just every every9one – as outlined above – said he couldn’t.

But it’s when we move away from the story of B Hunt that the St Brendan’s Yeppoon junior starts to loosen up. It’s when we move onto the top du jour, one J Hayne, that walls come down.

“I’ve only spoken to Matty Gillett about it, just last night, and he thinks it’s crazy but also very, very exciting – like, good on him,” Hunt says, suddenly sounding like a bloke having a mag over the back fence.

“It would be a massive thing for him to make it but he is freak athlete.

“I think it does have a broader meaning. Other players do look to other sports, like rugby union, to prove that they can do something different, play something else, and the NFL is one of the biggest competitions in the world.

“These days, you play your five or six years of rugby league and then you’re looking for a change, to challenge yourself and prove you can do it. Like, in union, you can play all around the world and see all these other countries.”

amazonHayne’s shock departure has, of course, led to claims that rugby league could have been better protected against this trend if it had done more to expand since its inception in 1895. Hunt reckons this would help retain some players, but not all.

“For some guys, yes,” he explains. “They do change for the lifestyle so if they could travel around the world or something, they might stay in league.

“But for others it’s about testing themselves. They want to prove they can make it in another sport, that’s their reason.”

Hunt agrees that the internet and the globalisation of media has resulted in players looking beyond the NRL and beyond rugby league for role models.

“The world has changed,” he said. “People are getting married later …. There are so many options out there and because others have done it, there are opportunities to play other sports.”

Perhaps our players feel comfortable talking about what lies beyond the game’s borders because no coach or CEO is going to hold it against them.

Internally, politics creates a maze for interviewees.

The entire Brisbane first grade squad was loyal to coach Anthony ‘Hook’ Griffin. When he was sacked in late July, they halfback’s form suffered and he considered throwing himself on the open market.

“We all got called in for a meeting with Hook and Paul White but there were rumours around, we knew what was going on,” said Hunt.

donate2“Paul White explained to us what was happening. It was pretty upsetting. Many of us had been with him since under 20s, he was the reason we were there at the club.

“He had faith in me when pretty much no-one else did so I’ll always be grateful for that.”

Hunt’s father, Geoff, said this was the time his son came closest to leaving the Broncos. Frustrated at the treatment meted out to Griffin, he said he was willing to test his value on the open market.

“I spoke to a couple of people, had a talk about what other clubs might be able to offer,” he recalled.

“But I didn’t look into it too much. It was in the back of my mind. There were a number of reasons (why I didn’t).

“I like living in Brisbane. My partner’s always been with me here. I think the club has a good future, I think Wayne Bennett will be good.”

When Brisbane were eliminated from the premiership race by North Queensland on the first weekend of the finals, Hunt was not expecting much. “I thought ‘footy’s over, time to relax, take it easy, get away.”

Instead, after polling well in the Dally Ms with votes (but Daly Cherry Evans beating him into the team of the year on five fewer votes), things have got a little crazy post-season for the Rockhampton-born footballer.

At the Broncos presentation night, he was named player of the year by a clear margin. He took out the fans’ favourite, the best back and players’ player.

Straight from the Brisbane Convention Centre, he travelled to the airport and onto Cairns for an overnight stay, before continuing to Kokopo and a starring role in the Australian Prime Ministers XIII’s 34-16 win over PNG.

(“What sticks out in my mind is how hard they hit … they tackle full-blast – and how passionate the fans are, they know everything about you”)

He was out of camp before the Four Nations long enough move into a new house.

At the Broncos presentation, club CEO Paul White publically thanked Hunt for not testing his value on the open market – but recounted a story of the no.7 getting his message across regarding negotiations by rewriting a Status Quo song at a barbecue.

Hunt explains: “There was a barbecue over at Anthony Griffin’s house and a few of us were in the middle of negotions.

“Anyway, a few of the boys started singing ‘Down, down, prices are down’.”

Hunt reveals this year is not the first time in his five years at the club that he thought about leaving. When he was stuck at hooker, a position he disliked, “I had a bit of a talk to a few people.

“There were some clubs …. A couple in Sydney, some in other places. But I was facing the same thing I had in Brisbane. I would have to force my way in and take someone else’s position.”

Success means more to Ben Hunt because he’s had to work at it, play out of position and prove a lot of people wrong. Arguably, he represents Anthony Griffin’s lasting legacy at the club.

“You see some players, they come straight out of the blocks as soon as they come into first grade,” he says. “Yeah, it does mean more, that it didn’t happen like that for me.”

Ben Hunt had better get used to reading some good things about himself.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

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THE JOY OF SIX: International Season Week One 2014

The Joy Of SixSANDOW SIN BIN

WHEN we went to Parramatta with claims Chris Sandow had played in an aboriginal knockout and been sent off for a shoulder charge followed by an elbow, Eels CEO Scott Seward told us: “He had permission to play. He passed a medical and the coach gave him his blessing. Chrissy has told us he was sent to the sin bin for a shoulder charge on a childhood friend. It was a bit of a joke between them.” But bootleg video on YouTube above appears to show a dismissal – with the elbow chiefly to blame. When Seward put this to Sandow, he insisted he wasn’t aware he had been sent off, only sin binned. We can’t find any record of a judiciary hearing. The title for the Murri Carnival at Redcliffe two weeks ago changed hands when it was discovered the winners, Murri Dingoes Blue, fielded a player who mistakenly believed his drugs suspension had expired. Parra’ refused permission for Joseph Paulo and Bereta Faraimo to play for the US in the Mitchelton Nines on Saturday.

PUNCHING ON 1

WE have often heard this year that “little guys wouldn’t be pushing big guys if they could still be punched”. It was just a theory until the Super League grand final, when little Lance Hohaia pushed big Ben Flower, then lunged at him with a raised forearm. As we know, Hohaia punched Flower twice, the second time when he was on his back, possibly unconscious. They both missed the rest of the game, leaving St Helens to limp to victory as they have all year. Had Flower – who left Old Trafford before fulltime – not opted out of Wales duty, he could at least have counted the upcoming European internationals against what will no doubt be a mammoth suspension. Condemnation of Flower has been widespread and almost unanimous. Soccer star Joe Barton Tweeted he had “little sympathy” for Hohaia because of the provocation, but later stressed he did not intend to defend the Welshman.

PUNCHING ON 2

LIKE Wigan’s Super League campaign, the proud 15-year-plus history of the United States Tomahawks may have come to an end with a punch at the weekend. The USARL is taking over running the game in the US and is likely to dispense with the old AMNRL trademark, meaning it was all on the line when the Americans trailed invitational side Iron Brothers 8-4 with three minutes left in a Nines quarter-final in Brisbane. The Tomahawks got the ball back but sometime-cage fighter Tui Samoa took umbrage to something a rival said and punched him. Water carrier Paulo – banned, as we said, by Parramatta from playing – helped separate them, Samoa was sent to the bin and Brothers scored again to eliminate the US 14-4.

GRACIOUSNESS AND GAFFES

AND what a mixed bag we had for rugby league public speaking at the weekend. On the plus side, congrats to departing Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin, the club’s player of the year Ben Hunt and CEO Paul White for their oratory at the club presentation. “Ben Hunt was entitled to test his value on the open market but he didn’t,” White told around 500 guests. “Although at a backyard barbecue I was at, he did get his message across to me by changing the words of the Status Quo song to ‘down, down, prices are down”. Griffin said: “Whatever I do now, I’ll be a competitor. But I’ll never be a critic of this club or the people in it.” On the negative, St Helens’ Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, at fulltime on live TV: “I’m absolutely buzzing. I could fucking swear”. Yes, he said those words – in that order.

WORLDWIDE LIVE

SOUTHS chief executive Shane Richardson has savaged the running of the international game in Britain’s The Observer. “I look at the state of international rugby league and it just makes me angry,” Richardson – citing the departure of Sam Burgess as a symptom of the problem – said. “I know from the years I’ve spent in the game, and the contacts I’ve made in business, and the places I’ve been around the world, that there’s a potential to do so much more.” Nevertheless, Greece played their first home international at the weekend, beating the Czechs 68-16 in Athens, the Philippines defeated Vanuatu 32-16 on remote Santo and Norway were preparing to meet Thailand in Bangkok. Next weekend, Latin America faces Portugal and Fiji takes on Lebanon, both in Sydney while Tonga take on PNG in Lae and the European Championships commence.

RETIRING ON A HIGH

REPORTS of veteran rugby league photographer Col Whelan’s retirement were greatly exaggerated last year. The NRL weren’t quite ready to take over Col’s operation and he went around in 2014 for one last season – wearing a South Sydney cap to every game. NRL rules prohibit media from wearing club merchandise but the media areas are full of uniformed club staff posting on social media, an inconsistency the irascible snapper sought to highlight. At fulltime on grand final day in the bunnies rooms, players became concerned Col had stopped shooting. He was crying with happiness. At the Red and Green ball, Whelan presented every player with a disc containing 120 photos of their life-defining triumph. What a way to go out – enjoy your retirement, Col.

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Ben Hunt Comes Clean Over Stealing

By STEVE MASCORD

BRISBANE utility Ben Hunt last night admitted he had been trying to offload when his side received a crucial penalty for stripping during the Broncos’ win over South Sydney.

Brisbane celebrated veteran prop Petero Civoniceva’s 300th game in style with a 26-12 win after trailing 6-4 at halftime, the result having the potential to send the bunnies to eighth by the end of round 16.

But Souths coach Michael Maguire lamented two first half refereeing calls that cost his men, who led 12-10 with 21 minutes to play.

Jack reed’s pass for Brisbane winger Dale Copley to score in the 60th minute was almost certainly forward and while the stripping penalty immediately before Alex Glenn’s 44th minute touchdown – awarded on the last tackle was also telling. Referees Tony Archer and Chris James ruled Hunt had not been trying to offload and had been illegally stripped of the ball.

“I remember seeing the ref, he still had his hand up – it was the last tackle,” Hunt told the Herald late last night. “I was sort of half-trying to get it out (pass).

“They were all over me. He sort of did have his hand on the ball but I guess was trying to get it out. We got a bit of a lucky call there I guess.

“It (the result) didn’t come down to that.”

While he was critical of aspects of his own side’s execution, Maguire said the calls were crucial in a top four clash.

“The strip on fifth tackle was an unusual one – I don’t think any player would want to strip the ball on fifth tackle down close to the line,” the coach said.

“As you saw on the screen there … the forward pass. Two moments like that, particularly in a close game, do hurt teams.

“Those moments in these games, big games when you’re playing the Broncos – every moment counts.”

On his big night, Civoniceva was awarded the final conversion – from 15 metres out to the right of the posts. He missed to left and said he was thought as he lined it up of Darren Lockyer’s muffed conversion in the Four Nations final.

“I sat up early watching that game and I could just see that happening all over again,” Civoniceva said. “I could see myself falling over and ending up on my backside,” he said. “I said to ‘Wal’ (Peter Wallace), ‘let’s just get this over with so we can all get off the field’.”

He said he would pass up the chance to make amends with kicks in future swansong matches. “That’s it,” he smiled. “Oh out of one for me.”

Aside from Greg Inglis,   Queensland utility Dave Taylor’s performance was also under the spotlight. Maguire denied he had deliberately left Taylor on the field to run him into fitness.

He said that while Taylor would be disappointed in himself for a couple of loose carries during the match, the bunnies were happy with their giant no.12.

And Souths captain Michael Crocker was asked about the possibility of good friend Billy Slater being fit for the interstate decider.

“He’s always confident,” said Crocker. “I know he’d love to be back there but it’s just a matter of getting his recovery and rehab right.

“If he can put some weight on it in the next couple of days and get some running into it, he said he might be right.”

The Broncos hope to have prop Ben Hannant back for their next start. Griffin concluded: “it was just important we built on last week. We spilt a bit of blood up there in North Queensland and were brave

“We had to make sure we backed it up this week and took another step, otherwise that effort last week would have been wasted.”

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD