A few short months ago prodigious utility Anthony Milford was heralded as the future of the Brisbane Broncos with the Queensland club licking their lips at the prospect of boasting both Ben Barba and Milford from 2015 onwards.
Still plying his trade with the Canberra Raiders, it is expected Milford will honour the deal with the Broncos and head north at season’s end and spark what might end up being one of the most dangerous partnerships in the National Rugby League.
Barba has already won a Clive Churchill Medal and his scintillating form in 2011 helped steer the Canterbury Bulldogs all the way to the decider where they eventually went down to the Melbourne Storm.
With Barba now finding his feet, the Broncos have found another attacking dimension.
What must please coach Anthony Griffin the most is the rise in stature of his young halfback.
Ben Hunt has been in career-best form and has taken his game to another level. He’s done all this with a makeshift five-eight, Josh Hoffman, beside him and Barba, who has struggled with confidence early after having off-season surgery on his ankle.
“Ben is up there with any halfback I’ve played with,” Barba recently told The Courier-Mail.
“He’s a competitor and he gives his all, that’s what you want in your halfback and he’s someone you can really follow.
“Benny’s not afraid to take on the line and his kicking game is improving. He’s inspiring the guys around him, he’s only going to get better.”
The Broncos have been better than their 4-4 record suggests and their good start to 2014 can be attributed directly to Hunt who had served a five-year apprenticeship as a utility bench player before making the number seven jumper his own.
He may not be Johnathan Thurston or Daly Cherry-Evans, but he doesn’t have to be.
Hunt has been fortunate enough to learn his craft from some of the great playmakers of the modern era including Darren Lockyer, Peter Wallace and Scott Prince. All had, or in Wallace’s case has, different skill sets. But what they all have in common is their ability to create a calming and controlling influence on the environment.
Just look at Wallace this year at the Penrith Panthers.
They are a team bursting at the seams with talent and potential, but where would they be after eight NRL rounds without Wallace at the helm?
Hunt is already that calming influence at the Broncos.
Have a look at the Cronulla Sharks and their superstar five-eight Todd Carney. How good is Carney or the Sharks without experienced halfback Jeff Robson?
Is South Sydney the same outfit without Adam Reynolds?
We all know how desperate the North Queensland Cowboys are to find a solid long-term halfback to mesh with Thurston.
All clubs are looking for that marquee free agent that can get people filing through the turnstiles and there is nothing wrong with that. Fans pay to see Sonny Bill Williams because he is more than just a player. Although one player doesn’t win you an NRL premiership, and nobody knows that better than a coach.
Hunt is the kind of player you want in your side and while kids in Brisbane might have Barba and Milford’s posters on their walls in the near future, Griffin is banking on Hunt being his halfback for a long while yet.
Brisbane might find themselves in a grand final down the track, and there will probably be plenty of highlights from Barba and Milford. Just know that there won’t be any grand final highlights for the Broncos if Ben Hunt isn’t in control of the ship.
Follow Commentary Box Sports on Social Media!