Why Ben Hunt shouldn’t play Origin again

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    Today when the Queensland Maroons announce their State of Origin squad, I am expecting them to name Ben Hunt in the number seven jersey.

    If I’m Kevin Walters, I wonder what the point is of making drastic changes to the Maroons squad. The final game is a dead-rubber. The squad will want some stability particularly after the potential injury concerns over the weekend to players like Greg Inglis and Dylan Napa.

    Also, even if Ben Hunt could be replaced, who would replace him for Game 3? Michael Morgan is still injured and it looks like Kalyn Ponga will be another player unavailable for the Maroons.

    Regardless of any potential changes, Game 3 this year matters very little. The Blues have won the series.

    Whether Hunt is picked or not, the bigger question for mine is whether he should be selected to wear the number seven jersey for Queensland ever again after his performances in the first two games.

    If you listen to many footy fans, the answer is absolutely not. But is this too harsh?

    This year’s Origin series was always going to be a challenging one for Queensland. You don’t lose players the calibre of Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith and not feel the impact, not just because of a loss of experience and ability, but also because of a loss of footy smarts.

    We saw the direct impact of this in Game 2 when Queensland were the better team for most of the game, but lost because they played stupid football at key moments.

    Not only was the loss of these players going to hurt, but I also wonder how much it impacted the way the team was coached. These were once-in-a-generation players, many of whom played together at a club level week in, week out and knew exactly how the others approached their footy.

    In previous years, I question how much thought Walters would have had to have put into his game plan or whether it was very much a case of ‘let the boys play’ and play they certainly did.

    Kevin Walters

    Queensland coach Kevin Walters (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

    Whoever was wearing that number seven jersey for Queensland this year was always going to have a big job ahead of them and was going to face massive criticism had the Maroons lost.

    Halfbacks are often convenient scapegoats when a team loses. Just ask any Blues fan how they feel about Mitchell Pearce.

    Unfortunately for Hunt, Queensland lost and he didn’t play well. And he was roasted for it, both at the end of Game 1 but more so at the conclusion of Game 2.

    Hunt has played over 200 NRL games and he is 28 years old. I know this was a tough series to come in to and I know he has been a convenient scapegoat, but for those people (Walters included) who are asking for fans to have patience with him, I query whether a player of his calibre needs more patience.

    I also wonder what we saw in Games 1 or 2 that suggest Queensland should be patient with him.

    His performance in Game 2 was difficult to watch, particularly because so often play stopped with him.

    What was working so well for Queensland in the first 20 minutes of the game was playing the game through the forwards and up the middle, giving Billy Slater the ball and then allowing him to give good early ball down the edges to players like Will Chambers and Dane Gagai.

    Particularly with Chambers, despite him not having his best game, just about any time he received the ball on the edge resulted in a break, a try or a disallowed try.

    Ben Hunt after Origin 2

    (AAP Image/David Moir)

    The minute Ponga came on, this stopped happening. Not just because Slater was going into first receiver, but also because Hunt is not a player who likes to give the edge good, early ball. He’s more of a ball running half.

    The problem is for this to be effective, Hunt actually needs to run the ball. In Game 2 he ran the ball five times, but from memory only on one of those occasions was a true example of him running the football.

    For a 28-year-old halfback, he was also making fundamental errors like kicking early.

    While kicking early sounds like a great tactic in theory, for it to be effective a halfback needs to kick the ball to the edges because while the fullback is always in position, the wingers are often not. When Hunt was kicking the ball early, it was finding James Tedesco on the chest and the Blues were starting their sets on the 30-metre line.

    I haven’t even mentioned the professional foul that led to the Blues’ penalty try.

    Unfortunately for Queensland and its new spine, when the likes of Cameron Munster and Andrew McCullough are playing, they need a big-game half to take control of the game. I question whether Hunt is this half and whether he may be a player who is best suited to club football.

    This year, the Blues did something I loved. They picked players based on form and a nucleus of young men that Brad Fittler can use to build a squad around for years to come like Nathan Cleary, Josh Ado-Carr, Latrell Mitchell and Damien Cook.

    Perhaps it’s time Queensland followed their lead because I don’t know that affording Hunt the same patience that NSW did to Mitchell Pearce will be an effective strategy in the long term.

    Going forward, Hunt is not the man to lead the Maroons.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (66)

    • July 2nd 2018 @ 6:51am
      jimmmy said | July 2nd 2018 @ 6:51am | ! Report

      Mary, I have no idea who is th ideal half for QLD but like you I know it is obviously not Ben Hunt. Anyone but Hunt is my choice.

      • Columnist

        July 2nd 2018 @ 9:16am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

        What are your thoughts on DCE? To me that’s not an effective solution for forward planning…

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 9:55am
          Gonzo said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          DCE suffers from a different problem. He’s pretty ordinary at all facets of his game.

          I would like to see Hunt get more game time in the Qld 7. Its hard to play well behind a beaten pack and ordinary service from his 9.

          • Columnist

            July 2nd 2018 @ 10:46am
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:46am | ! Report

            So Gonzo does the solution then become to change the forward pack and the number 9?

            It’s interesting you bring up the beaten pack point, because QLD were well on top in Game II for the first 20 minutes, until Kalyn Ponga came on and became QLD’s most used middle forward. He did a great job in that spot but as I said in the article, it meant that the backs no longer got any outside ball.

            If the Maroons are committed to Macca and also to their forwards (including Hess), I don’t see it getting any easier from Hunt going forward.

    • Roar Guru

      July 2nd 2018 @ 7:42am
      Dutski said | July 2nd 2018 @ 7:42am | ! Report

      Mary I like your argument overall, but as you say it’s easy to blame the halfback.
      In this instance we’re looking at a half in his first series in the 7, playing behind a beaten pack in a series where the senior players were either absent literally or metaphorically (eg Chambers).
      Sure Hunt had a poor game. Is the same criticism levelled at Munster who also failed to lift his team? He did a few good things in game 2 but not nearly enough diamonds to offset the rocks.
      Sure Hunt is no JT or Cronk. Who is? Get him behind a dominant pack and see what he can do. In fact you have seen it at the Dragons. You talk about picking on form – until his quad injury he was the form half in the comp.
      He needs to lift, no doubt. But to put a line through his name permanently is way too harsh.

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 7:48am
        Craig said | July 2nd 2018 @ 7:48am | ! Report

        The packs were even in game 1 and in game 2 QLD made way more metres and had better field position. So he wasn’t playing behind a beaten pack, just imagine how bad he would be then?

        He’s a choker plain and simple. If after 200 odd games you can’t perform at that level then you’re never going to.

        • Roar Guru

          July 2nd 2018 @ 8:23am
          Dutski said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:23am | ! Report

          I don’t know Craig. In a team where your starting front rowers make less than 100m between them and the skinny kid fullback on debut is one of your better forwards it’s hard to make a case for the pack being dominant.

          • Roar Guru

            July 2nd 2018 @ 9:44am
            Emcie said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report

            QLD’s starting props made 120m between them, NSW’s starters made 115m between them

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:45am
            Craig said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:45am | ! Report

            Your comment implies that the pack got dominated, thus no field position and no room for Hunt to move in. QLD made a lot more metres than NSW, thus had momentum and better field position (regardless of whether it was forwards or backs who made the metres).

            He had field position, he had opportunities to create, hell he even had field position against 12 men with all the momentum.

            Imagine how poor he would be in a team with 0 field position and limited opportunities.

            He’s not up to it, pure and simple.

            I don’t think he’s helped by having a non-creative dummy half either.

            • Roar Guru

              July 4th 2018 @ 12:35pm
              Dutski said | July 4th 2018 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

              I didn’t say they GOT dominated, but that they weren’t dominant. Slight but important difference

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 1:20pm
          dayer said | July 2nd 2018 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

          agree

      • Roar Rookie

        July 2nd 2018 @ 8:40am
        Dogs Boddy said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        Having watched a bit of the Red V this year I honestly feel that Widdop is the one driving the ship there. Hunt is not exactly setting the world on fire in club land but has been able to hide in a winning team.

        • Roar Guru

          July 2nd 2018 @ 8:46am
          Emcie said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:46am | ! Report

          Yeah, I think there’s a big diffrence between being the form halfback and being the halfback in the form team (well, top team anyway). I wouldn’t say he’s been hiding though, he’s been doing his job. I just don’t think that job is good enough to force his way into the Origin team.

          • Roar Rookie

            July 2nd 2018 @ 9:04am
            Dogs Boddy said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:04am | ! Report

            Good point.

            Hiding was certainly the wrong word to use there as he is still playing well.

      • Roar Guru

        July 2nd 2018 @ 8:44am
        Emcie said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:44am | ! Report

        At what point was QLD’s pack beaten? In game 1 meters gained were pretty close despite QLD recieving a lot less ball and in game 2 QLD easily won the meters battle. Hunt had a lot of opportunities to work with and couldn’t come up with the goods

        • Columnist

          July 2nd 2018 @ 11:20am
          Mary Konstantopoulos said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:20am | ! Report

          They weren’t beaten. It’s an excuse people use when a halfback gets dominated…

          • Roar Guru

            July 4th 2018 @ 12:37pm
            Dutski said | July 4th 2018 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

            My apologies – I meant a pack that failed to dominate.
            It’s just as easy to blame the pack when a halfback fails to fire as it is to blame the half when the pack fails to lay a strong platform.

      • Columnist

        July 2nd 2018 @ 9:18am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        I think Munster is a player that we can have patience with. I don’t think you can compare a player like Hunt who is 28 years old and has played over 200 NRL games to a 23 year old Cameron Munster.

        • Roar Guru

          July 4th 2018 @ 12:38pm
          Dutski said | July 4th 2018 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

          I agree to be patient with Munster. I also think the same with Hunt. We see it differently. I can live with that.

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 1:23pm
        dayer said | July 2nd 2018 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

        sorry DUTski you are wrong …. it was bloody Hunt.. he has no leadership skills. useless in two games.. have him on the bench, i think he might fire then ..

        • Roar Guru

          July 4th 2018 @ 12:40pm
          Dutski said | July 4th 2018 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

          He’s useless! Never play Origin again! Put him on the bench! Make up your mind!

    • July 2nd 2018 @ 7:53am
      Arcturus said | July 2nd 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      Sshhh. Stop giving Queensland hints.

      • Roar Guru

        July 2nd 2018 @ 8:20am
        Dutski said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:20am | ! Report

        Gold!

      • Columnist

        July 2nd 2018 @ 9:17am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        Is this when I reveal myself as a Queenslander? 😛

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 9:57am
          Big daddy said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:57am | ! Report

          Mary,
          I feel a bit sorry for you .
          You have kept that in the closet for a while
          And you follow Parramatta as well.
          Just keep taking the valium.
          It will all work out.

          • Columnist

            July 2nd 2018 @ 10:47am
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:47am | ! Report

            Hahahahaha, I’m definitely not a Quenslander. But this made me laugh!

    • Roar Guru

      July 2nd 2018 @ 9:28am
      Nat said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:28am | ! Report

      The series is done. They’ve got bigger issues to cover then Hunt ATM. To drop Hunt now would be a kick in the pants he doesn’t need or really deserve, for the final game at least. Ash Taylor has nearly become undeniable but gong unnoticed in a losing team and a rotating 5/8 role beside him. You could put him with Milford, Morgan or Munster and allow them to run. Right now, with the absence and form of Morgan, Qld have all running halves while Taylor is an out-n-out organiser. For mine, if he going to be replaced, it has to be Taylor as DCE has the same issues as Hunt, needs a good 5/8, so they can utilize their ‘heads up’ game.

      • Columnist

        July 2nd 2018 @ 9:34am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        Nat, on DCE I agree that he is not the man going forward.

        He wasn’t a success last time and he is getting on in age too. He is not a forward looking pick.

        Ash is definitely someone I hadn’t considered… but would he get a run if Morgan was fit?

        • Roar Guru

          July 2nd 2018 @ 9:41am
          Emcie said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:41am | ! Report

          That’s probably a bit harsh on DCE, he’s only a year older then Hunt yet Hunt was proclaimed to be the future for the state leading into the series. I’m not saying that there aren’t reasons to pick DCE but age certainly isn’t one of them. Cooper Cronk was 28 when he took over the reigns from Locky for example and people weren’t calling him too old. I don’t see why we now all of a sudden have to pick the half for the next ten years, there’s nothing wrong with four or five year stints in a position

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 4:26pm
            Rob said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

            Exactly. Hunt is 1 year younger than DCE. But Hunt is not up to the job. What age was JT when selected? How many NRL games did he have as a starting 7? Can you name the last 3 halves born and bred west of Brisbane? Where does QLD have an attacking advantage and NSW have a questionable defence? The edges. Who leads the comp in try assists? How many tries are scored of accurate smart kicking in SOO? The selection have been wrong for 2 years. The warning signs where there last year.
            A. Taylor or DCE a CC and DM medalist were better choices.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 9:51am
          Tom G said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

          Just by saying DCE is not the answer does not make that statement correct. On any objective assessment of form over the last few seasons he should be a high consideration in any rep side. Note I said objective. His problem is that his face didn’t fit in with the clique of players running the Queensland show, pure and simple. The fact that this clique were very successful vindicated his treatment with most ergo he was depicted as an underachiever, lacked temperament, wasn’t a team player etc etc. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t really up to it however it was just the skewed logic of bias. . If he’d been born a nsw player he would have been a permanent fixture in the blues. As for his age, he’s 29. How on earth does that make him too old? Maybe he’s just too DCE for you. Evidently being an Eels fan you’re still getting over buying a bunch of Manly rejects over the last few years including spending up big on the wrong half.

          • Roar Guru

            July 2nd 2018 @ 10:09am
            Emcie said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:09am | ! Report

            That’s not entirely true, he was well and truely being groomed to take over when Cronk retired untill a couple poor years from manly let Morgan nudge his way into the side (with help from a GF winning play and a proven combination with Thurston). Hunt’s only been in the picture since game three last year and this year has been his only real showing in the side

          • Roar Guru

            July 2nd 2018 @ 12:49pm
            Renegade said | July 2nd 2018 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

            Manly fans have been stating all season how bad DCE has been….

            • July 2nd 2018 @ 2:42pm
              Tom G said | July 2nd 2018 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

              Manly fans have been blowing up about the teams regrettable form all year in general.. Evans bears the brunt of that because he is their marquee player and they expect him to carry the team. Doesn’t make them right either. One player is never the reason a team isn’t functioning. I don’t hear anyone levelling this type of vitriol at Thurston and yet the cowboys are having a shocker this season with arguably less issues and a stronger roster.

              • July 2nd 2018 @ 5:27pm
                Rob said | July 2nd 2018 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

                Say what. JT is a living God no way is he the same as DCE. Cowboys won’t make the 8 without him. DCE had a chance in SOO and made JT look bad. How he’s payed the same as JT is an abomination just ask JT. LOL

      • Roar Guru

        July 2nd 2018 @ 9:34am
        Emcie said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        Do we have bigger issues then who’s at 7? Doesn’t matter how good the rest of the team is going if we can’t ice the play in the attacking 10. And I dunno if not wanting to hurt a guys feelings is a leitimate reason to keep someone in the team, and certainly not one Kevie has used regarding other players that have been dropped

        • Roar Guru

          July 2nd 2018 @ 10:13am
          Nat said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:13am | ! Report

          Yeah, my statements are probably 80% compassion over logic. I just don’t think he played that bad but there were 3 moments: the drop/strip ball on our line – 50/50 NSW were always going to get. The penalty try, irrespective of the call, every defender would have made at least the same effort Hunt did and Cordner hits the deck either way – same result. The grubber, no excuse, poor % play at the wrong time on the wrong side. However, prior to that he had good control, giving Billy time and space which stopped after Ponga came on, that is not an issue for G3. Their 2 tries came from Gagai missing a basic 1on1 on JAC and Chambers going low on Mitchell 1m off his line. Otherwise, as widely acknowledged, Qld were the better team for the most part.

          Anyway, null and void. I just read DCE has the gig, Hunt to the bench. Oates in on the wing Gagai to the centers.

          • Roar Guru

            July 2nd 2018 @ 10:56am
            Emcie said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:56am | ! Report

            I think it was more then 3 bad plays, That grubber wasn’t the only seven tackle restart Hunt gifted the blues and he gave his outside men a couple hospital passes which I’m sure they enjoyed and he died with the ball a couple times early in the game. Early game when QLD looked dominant a lot of the plays were going through the Munster Slater combination, once Ponga came on and Hunt took more control QLD looked a lot less dangerous

            • Roar Guru

              July 2nd 2018 @ 11:46am
              Nat said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:46am | ! Report

              I can’t argue. I just don’t like sinking the slipper in so that’s why I thought the final game for redemption. Not to be but good luck to Saints now we’ve NSW’d him.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 6:00pm
            Rob said | July 2nd 2018 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

            Sorry but Hunt went missing badly. In game 1 I was very unhappy about Kafusi missing vital tackles and making poor defensive reads with Chambers also struggling. Marking fast physically strong outside backs like Mitchell and Ado C requires getting up fast or keeping a very straight line. I suggest Hunt was causing a lot of the issues by hanging back and also causing a fractured line. When Ponga makes the break where is Hunt? He’s bludging and not supporting is what. He then proceeded to murder a huge over lap with a retreating NSW defence the next play by putting in another dumb kick. Maybe i’m use to watching a half that backs up down the middle or one that takes the smart option against a retreating out numbered defence putting them to the sword. I’m sorry but Billy wasn’t having problems because of Ponga’s involvement. He was probably at 35 and not playing for 4 weeks with a dodgey hamstring starting to be less effective. By the way Slater was the closest to supporting Ponga when he went through but Hunt isn’t in the picture and the bust was right in front of him.

        • Roar Rookie

          July 2nd 2018 @ 12:06pm
          William Dalton Davis said | July 2nd 2018 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

          I think organising is our biggest problem. Not necessarily a 7 but just someone to give the team real direction. Ponga actually appears to have a lot of skill in organising so maybe the problem will resolve itself. Our defence on the right edge will be a lot better with Gillett back next year to cover whoever is at 7 giving Chambers confidence to mark up on Mitchell more effectively.

          As has been said a hundred times above me, despite Wallace’s less than stellar performances QLD haven’t been beaten up front. Game 1 was up and down but game 2 definitely went QLDs way in metres gained/restricted up front. Imo Wallace or Napa have to come off the bench. They’re too similar to have on at the same time.

          Arrow should start at 13 and have McGuire at starting prop or have McGuire start his first 30 minute stint at lock and bring Arrow on for the final 50 then bring McGuire back on up front. Get McCoullough to run the ball more when on the front foot and if Hunt is selected at starting 7 again drill that into his eyelids and plaster every single piece of advertisement in the stadium with that same message. Before each game have Moore screaming “QLDer (also Hunt run the damn ball)”. If he doesn’t run next series then he has to be dropped. Can’t have players ignoring their biggest strengths trying to shore up their weaknesses.

      • July 3rd 2018 @ 8:47am
        Graham said | July 3rd 2018 @ 8:47am | ! Report

        Taylor munster ponga and copley are my spine for the forseeable future with hunt as utility bench player

        Morgan is decent but taylor is better

        • Roar Rookie

          July 3rd 2018 @ 11:00am
          William Dalton Davis said | July 3rd 2018 @ 11:00am | ! Report

          Copley? As in Dale Copley? Say whaaaaaaat?

          • July 3rd 2018 @ 12:42pm
            Graham said | July 3rd 2018 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

            Yep Copley at homer it’ll be the last thing they’d expect 😀
            I meant mcculogh

    • July 2nd 2018 @ 9:30am
      Paulie said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:30am | ! Report

      I think there’s a chance Game 3 breaks Hunt’s confidence completely.

      In his return game for the Dragons last week, he basically didn’t touch the ball the entire first half. In the last 10mins he improved, but for most of that game he looked like someone avoiding the ball.

      If in Game 3, he is targeted again (which the Blues will definitely do), it could really affect him. Almost every NSW try in this series has involved a missed tackle or defensive misread from Hunt. Hopefully for his sake he has a good game, but sense is it could be his last for Qld for a while…

    • July 2nd 2018 @ 9:53am
      Fairdinkum said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      Why no mention of McCullough?.
      He has delivered zero in attack around the ruck.No running game,no kicking game, nothing.The trouble with Queensland has been their forwards.The blues will do a number on them now that the pressure is off them which us NSW supporters will enjoy.

      • Roar Guru

        July 2nd 2018 @ 10:50am
        Emcie said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        Um, he ran more then Hunt (the running half) did last game

      • Roar Guru

        July 2nd 2018 @ 11:41am
        Nat said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:41am | ! Report

        What game were you watching. Qld forwards were all over NSW. McCollough was only slightly behind Cook in RM and topped the tackle count. Along with the injuries, Qld have dropped their under performers so all the pressure is on NSW. Enjoy the series win, you can rehash the #oneinarow shirt from 4 yrs ago 😉

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 11:58am
        Jewboy said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:58am | ! Report

        Agree 100% Fairdinkum…..McCullough is the same style of hooker as Peats was to NSW last year….an honest hooker but no flair or variation.
        Enter Cook for NSW and they have a more dangerous pack.
        I feel It would be a good chance to give Granville a run to see how he might perform in the SOO arena….has variation in his game and is a solid defender.

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