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Ben Hunt on the move for the PM's XIII against Fiji.

After a draining year, Australian playmaker Ben Hunt can't wait to be part of the laidback vibe of the World Cup 9s.

The St George Illawarra star was among the scapegoats for his team's poor NRL season and copped heavy criticism.

The fierce desire to succeed remains but the external pressure will drastically drop in the Nines and Hunt is looking forward to an attacking party.

"It's just exciting to get back and play Nines again. I had a couple of laps with the Broncos in the NRL [Auckland] Nines and it was really fun," Hunt told

"I guess it's not quite as serious as your normal competitions. Obviously you want to win but everyone goes out and has a lot of fun."

Asked if the cavalier attitude in Nines evokes memories of junior days, the Queensland Origin No.9 said: "It does a little bit. When you've got the ball, it definitely does.

Ponga happy to take back seat to Addo-Carr and Papenhuyzen

"When you're defending it's different, you're working pretty hard and it's pretty tough sometimes.

"The longer you can have the ball, the better it'll be and you can enjoy yourself."

Hunt expects to switch between hooker and halfback throughout the tournament, though he admits those plans could quickly change.

"At training it kind of goes out the window a little bit when you're moving the ball around a lot and everyone sort of has to get to dummy half at a certain point," he said.

As well as the obvious answers of Josh Addo-Carr and Kalyn Ponga, Hunt nominated "classy" Titans pocket-rocket AJ Brimson as the man he's most hyped to play alongside.

Another speedster made for Nines footy is Melbourne fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, who is yet to process his remarkable rise in 2019.

World Cup Player Focus: Ryan Papenhuyzen

Having started the season in reserve grade, 21-year-old Papenhuyzen could never have imagined he'd be donning the green and gold seven months later.

"People I aspired to be like I'm actually playing with now, so it's pretty cool," Papenhuyzen said.

"I still can't really believe it. I'll use this time after the tournament and after the [Junior Kangaroos] under-23s next week to reflect on it all.

"Now I'm just trying to ride the wave out and enjoy it as much as I can because I know it's rare and I know it's been a big year."

There's no shortage of gun custodians in Australia's squad - and Knights superstar Ponga is arguably biggest drawcard at the World Cup 9s.

"He's a freak, an absolute freak," said Papenhuyzen.

"I'll just sit back and watch and hopefully throw him the footy a few times and see him do his magic.

"He's awesome and he brings his touch skills into it as well. I played him a couple times in touch so it's good to come in the same side now and see what he can do.

"I still think it'll be hard to get through but once fatigue sets in that's when we'll see the likes of Kalyn and a few of the boys in the team light up."

For ticket and travel packages for the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s Sydney 2019, head to

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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