You’ve got to feel sorry for Ben Hunt. The bloke made one bad grubber kick with about five minutes to go in Game 2 and he’s been demoted to the bench for Queensland.
Despite all the critics who hammered him for a lukewarm performance, Hunt wasn’t alone. What’s more, he showed he’s got some real character and resilience four days later by coming up with big plays to get St George Illawarra over the line against Parramatta when a boilover was on the cards.
Hunt has done a superb job at the Dragons, and is one of the reasons they have led the competition for most of the season. He has developed a great combination with Gareth Widdop, seeing the team become less predictable in attack.
Hunt may not be Cooper Cronk, but then Cameron Munster isn’t Johnathan Thurston, and Andrew McCulloch isn’t exactly Cameron Smith. While one player may not make a team, four legends of the game can have a pretty big influence.
The 2018 Queensland team is a pale imitation of the sides that dominated Origin for over a decade. Their once-feared spine all but gone – but then so too is that of their selectors.
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The inclusion of Daly Cherry-Evans is a short-sighted, reactionary move. The ‘pick and stick’ method selectors used to bang on about has been replaced by a ‘pick and flick’ approach, which creates a team environment where players start playing for themselves, and not their teammates.
What’s to be gained by going back to Cherry-Evans for Game 3? He’s not exactly on fire. Manly are in 13th position on the ladder (won five, lost 11) and if DCE struggles to lead an ordinary club side around the park, then how is he meant to take control in Origin?
If he were the stand-out choice, then maybe you’d cut him some slack, which is effectively how NSW managed Jarryd Hayne for the last few years.
But is the polarising Cherry-Evans the bloke you’re going to build a team around for the next three or four years?