WORDS of wisdom from Wayne Bennett have guided many Brisbane players toward State of Origin selection.
But after earning a surprise Queensland debut, Broncos halfback Ben Hunt credited his form reversal with advice Bennett would surely never utter — go out and play like a schoolboy.
One month after being relegated to reserve grade by Bennett, Hunt has held out Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans to be named Queensland bench utility for July 12’s Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium.
While Hunt thanked Bennett for helping him earn his first Maroons jumper, the No.7 saluted a simple philosophy from his reserve grade stint for rediscovering his on-field mojo.
Dumped to Queensland Cup side Ipswich, a “filthy” Hunt was wondering how to handle his demotion when the team’s coaches — ex-Broncos Ben and Shane Walker — offered their advice.
“Their instructions were ‘whatever the Broncos have taught you the last 10 years just forget about it and go back to playing school footy and just enjoy what you do’,” Hunt said.
“When Wayne told me (I was playing Queensland Cup) I was a little bit filthy but I just had to have the right attitude.
“That was really how I approached it, just go out and have fun. “I was lucky enough to play a good game, get back into the NRL team and now here I am.”
Hunt reckons he hasn’t lost that on-field approach after capping a remarkable rise by receiving a Maroons call-up.
After playing just two NRL games since returning from his demotion, Hunt has earned the Queensland No. 14 jersey ahead of form Sea Eagles playmaker Cherry- Evans.
Yet Hunt admitted there were many times he thought he would never play Origin.
Like last year when he was one of eight players slapped with a 12-month Origin ban for breaking curfew at an Emerging Maroons camp.
Or just weeks ago when he was banished to Queensland Cup.
“There’s been a lot of times I never thought I would make Origin. Going back to last year and even getting dropped this year, things go through your mind, you have those bad thoughts and think ‘is this it?’” Hunt said.
“Wayne and my partner Bridget were really good with that, really positive, told me to take it on the chin and try and play the best football I can — it has worked out.”
“I didn’t think I was close at all but Queensland have shown over the years they reward you with loyalty,” Hunt said.
“This is my opportunity to play well. If I can, hopefully I will be able to keep my spot.”