Hunt hopes to play with ‘tough’ Friend in Origin
BEN Hunt has given Jake Friend his stamp of approval as the pair looks to forge a partnership to lead the next generation of Maroons.
Hunt and Friend are part of the emerging State of Origin squad, whose members gathered yesterday in Brisbane ahead of a training camp this week.
Friend, a former Noosa Pirate, was named 18th man for Origin I last year and would be considered by many as a certainty to replace incumbent state and national rake Cameron Smith in the event of the great man's retirement.
Hunt said yesterday that he regarded Friend as one the best young players in the game, adding he was excited at the prospect of playing alongside the talented Sydney Roosters' No.9 in the Origin arena.
"I played junior footy with Friendy and he is one of the toughest blokes I have ever played with or against," he said.
"He is so competitive and I would love to play with him again.
"To think we could play together at Origin level is exciting."
Hunt enjoyed a breakout 2014 for Brisbane and was named at halfback for Origin II but missed out when the man he was to replace, Daly Cherry-Evans, was deemed fit to play.
Hunt's dynamite year culminated with selection in the Australian squad for the Four Nations squad, where he made two appearances off the bench and scored a try with his first touch of the ball against England.
He was named in the 17 for the final of the Four Nations against New Zealand, with coach Tim Sheens opting for him rather than favourite son Robbie Farah.
"It was the best year of my career so far and the Four Nations was obviously a real highlight for me," Hunt said.
"But this is a new year and I am just focusing on playing well for the Broncos and that other stuff (rep selection) will take care of itself."
Hunt, who returned to training at Red Hill this week, said he had so far enjoyed working under new coach Wayne Bennett.
"He's been good and there is a good mood around the place," he said.
"Obviously I will work with him more in the coming weeks, but everything is going well so far."
Friend is not due back until at least round four of the 2015 NRL season following shoulder surgery.