Coach Wayne Bennett and Ben Hunt at training.
Coach Wayne Bennett and Ben Hunt at training.

Why cashed-up Hunt won’t baulk Bennett hoodoo

RUGBY LEAGUE: Ben Hunt says he's ready to field the pressure and scrutiny that comes with being the NRL's newest million-dollar man in one of rugby league's most parochial heartlands.

Hunt's five-year $6 million contract with the Dragons is one of the richest deals ever seen in the game, and with the whopping pay cheque will come plenty of expectation.

Not least of all from the devout Red V supporters who have endured a rollercoaster seven years since Wayne Bennett led the club to a title in 2010.

A number of players have cycled through the No.7 jumper since that grand final, but Hunt has been flown down from Brisbane to make the jersey his own.

But 187 games in league-mad Brisbane has prepared him for the weight that is about to be dumped on his shoulders.

"I think that's something that's always come with me, being the halfback for the Broncos - a one-club town - there's always a lot of pressure on the Broncos up there and players that play in the halves," Hunt told media on Thursday.

Ben Hunt of the Broncos makes a break.
Ben Hunt of the Broncos makes a break.

"I think I've learnt to cop it and move on now.

"That's what the Dragons have signed me for, they want me to come here and be a great player for their team and lead from the front along with Gareth (Widdop).

"That's my plan, to come here and hit the ground running from day one."

Hunt had arguably his best season in 2015 when he led the Broncos to a grand final, only to fall to North Queensland at the final hurdle.

His 2017 campaign was not so rosy, being dumped to reserve grade midway through the season and then being bounced between halfback, hooker and the bench by coach Wayne Bennett.

He thrived at hooker, though, and the case was being made for Hunt to make a permanent move to the No.9 jumper.

Matt Dufty celebrates scoring a try with Gareth Widdop.
Matt Dufty celebrates scoring a try with Gareth Widdop.

But he revealed Dragons coach Paul McGregor has guaranteed him the No.7, where he'll slot in alongside five-eighth Gareth Widdop.

One position that's yet to be determined is fullback.

It appears to be a race in two between young gun Matt Dufty and the more experienced utility player Kurt Mann. Although the likes of Zac Lomax are making McGregor's decision a headache.

Hunt may have spilled the beans when he revealed Dufty is leading the race to the No.1.

Having developed a lethal right-edge combination with Broncos captain Darius Boyd over the years, Hunt is working closely with the Dragons hopefuls in an effort to add another dimension to the Red V attack.

"I've been doing a little bit of work, obviously they've got some good young talent here," Hunt said of the fullbacks.

"Duff (Dufty) has probably got his nose in front at the moment, he played a bit there last year.

Australian player Ben Hunt (centre) is seen during training.
Australian player Ben Hunt (centre) is seen during training.

"He's an exciting young player, he's still got a lot to learn, but it's definitely exciting. He's got a lot of speed and puts on some good plays."

Hunt has never played against the Broncos in the NRL but he won't have to wait long to face his former teammates on the field.

The Dragons open the 2018 NRL season against Brisbane on March 8.

The banter has already started between Hunt and his mates up north.

"There will be a few (text messages) ... there's been a few already and it's only pre-season," Hunt laughed.

"There will be a few that week, the boys will be throwing a bit of banter my way.

"It's going to be a strange feeling. It's a strange feeling having red and white on to be honest.

"I'm going to try to take it all in."

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