New Queensland hooker Ben Hunt is set to receive hot tips from Cameron Smith in camp this week as he insists he is fit and ready to play 80 minutes if required in the State of Origin series opener.
The Dragons halfback returns to the position he played at the Broncos mostly off the bench in 2012-13. It is Smith’s game that Hunt has studied closely and he expected the Maroons legend would join the camp this week to pass on his wisdom.
“Smithy has been the best nine in our game ever and the things I try and take out of his game are his calmness and the speed he plays the game,” Hunt said at the Maroons fans day in Charleville on Tuesday.
“He knows when to speed things up and when to slow things down. He is always relaxed in the middle and gets the ball to the men that need it. Hopefully, we can get him into camp later in the week and I can learn a bit off him.
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 1 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
“I think I can get a full game in. Going back to my time at the Broncos, I was playing a full game at hooker and I feel I can handle a full 80 minutes in the middle in Origin.
"I know it's a different game, but you find ways out there to get your breath back. I'm not sure if Kevvie plans to play me for 80 minutes, we'll see how it goes.”
“I'd rather start at nine than come off the bench. It's something I did for many years at the Broncos and I found it harder coming off the bench and getting into the game. You run out and just get straight into it.”
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Hunt played the opening two games of last year’s Holden State of Origin series at halfback before slotting back to the bench for game three, where he came on and made an impact in Queensland’s 18-12 win.
He showed great character and skill to do that and is looking forward to partnering with halfback Daly Cherry-Evans again when he does come on.
“It was something I wanted to do going into game three, being dropped in a way out of my position. I wanted to prove I belong in that arena and just forget about everything that happened and enjoy myself and rip in. I believe that's what I did,” Hunt said.
“With Daly, we just played a freestyle game of footy. Yes we have structures, but we are willing to play what is in front of us and if something pops up that we weren't planning for, then we'll take these opportunities.
“I'm ready. It still feels just as special as the first call I got from Kevvie to play seven. He still has belief in me to be in the side and the starting side. I am going out to do a job in the No.9."
Hunt said he was confident Cherry-Evans would be fit to play on June 5 after recovering from ankle surgery and added that he would make an excellent captain.
“I had a chat to him yesterday on the plane and he said everything is going really well for him and if he had an NRL game this weekend, he would be right to play,” Hunt said.
“He is confident in the work he has done up until now and he is the ultimate professional, so I believe he will be good to go.
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“It was an obvious decision for me that he was the captain, he has been captain for his club and vice-captain for Australia. To me, he is an exceptional leader and the right man for the job.”
Hunt was one of the most popular members of the Maroons camp in Charleville and as a lad from the bush in central Queensland it was no surprise that the trip west was one he enjoyed.
“It means everything. It's always pretty special to get back out to the bush,” Hunt said. "I'm from out there and to see the smiles on the kids' faces, they don't get things like this very often. They usually do it pretty hard out here, so to get out and see them happy is great."
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