Maroons hero Ben Hunt has immediately shifted his sights to kick-starting St George Illawarra’s run home to the finals – and he wants those teammates who attended Paul Vaughan’s infamous barbecue to be major support acts.
Hunt rejoined his Dragons teammates on Thursday after playing his best Origin game to date a night earlier on the Gold Coast.
And while the skipper had expressed his disappointment and frustration with a few of his senior Dragons teammates about Vaughan’s Shellharbour house party, Hunt said it was on those players to now “tow the line and lead the way”.
“I haven’t had much to say about that [Vaughan incident] because I went straight into Maroons camp and was away from it all,” Hunt told the Herald on Thursday.
“I knew Vaughny said he wanted to have a barbecue, but I never knew if it was actually going ahead, or what the numbers would be or anything like that. I was actually enjoying family time that night.
“It’s very disappointing. We’re on the edge of the eight, we’ve had a couple of good wins, and for something like that to happen is a big setback for the club.
“I spoke to a few of the boys and they all said they were sorry. It was a big mistake made by a few people. They can say sorry all they want, they need to get on with it now, toe the line and lead our club – all those blokes who were there need to help lead our club.”
Vaughan was sacked while the 12 remaining players, some who went into “fight-or-flight mode” and fled from the scene once police arrived, publicly apologised and were each banned for one NRL game, to be spaced out over the next month.
It has only placed more pressure on the Dragons and their stars like Hunt who could yet miss Friday night’s game against Manly. Hunt quipped that his man-of-the-match performance at dummy-half in Queensland’s 20-18 win had “wiped a few years off my career” because of the extra defensive work. If he is a late scratching for the Dragons, Adam Clune would likely slot into the halves with Corey Norman.
Hunt is confident the Dragons can click into gear and not just make up the numbers. They meet Manly without Tom Trbojevic, followed by the Titans, Rabbitohs and Raiders. On paper, at least three of those games are winnable.
Ben Hunt was brilliant for the Maroons in game three.Credit:Getty
“It’s a massive challenge ahead for us, we’ve had a few rocky weeks, and now we’ve come up here because of COVID, and it’s time to pull together, put some good footy together out there on the field, and I need to lead that,” Hunt said.
“I’m actually looking forward to that challenge. I’ve been happy with the way I’ve been playing. I just want to lead the club in all the effort areas, not the fancy stuff, but doing the little things right like having a good kick chase, defending well and working hard.
“You’ve just got to work hard for your teammate, and if you do the hard work, your teammate’s job becomes easier.”
Coach Anthony Griffin rated Wednesday night’s game as Hunt’s best for Queensland, as well as saying his performance a few weeks earlier against the New Zealand Warriors, a sloppy clash that was eventually settled in golden point, was his best this season for the Red V.
“He [Hunt] was outstanding, he’s having a great season, and they [Queensland] are probably wishing they had him there in game one now,” Griffin said.
“He was obviously the best player on the field and it was great to see him do that for Queensland being a Queenslander myself.”
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