Ben Hunt’s late-season performances in Brisbane’s clutch games against Melbourne and North Queensland may have fallen short of expectations, but there is no question his 2014 campaign was a quantum leap forward in his progression as a top-flight No.7.
Prior to this season, Hunt had started just 22 of his 89 NRL appearances in the halves, predominantly playing as dummy-half relief off the bench.
Following the departure of Peter Wallace and Scott Prince in the off-season, there were more sceptics than optimists regarding Hunt’s ability to take control of the Broncos – particularly with a novice five-eighth in Josh Hoffman alongside him in the halves.
There were plenty of up-and-down performances early in the season, with Hunt’s last-tackle options and inability to close out a string of tight matches at the forefront of concerns.
But Hunt was the Broncos’ spearhead as they went on a midyear winning run, and again as they staged a late-season charge to grab a finals spot. Meanwhile, he was on the cusp of a Queensland Origin debut as the Maroons negotiated a halves injury crisis ahead of game two.
He finished the year with 13 tries – predominantly dazzling solo efforts, and the most by any player in the NRL that wasn’t a fullback or three-quarter – and produced 19 line breaks and 19 try assists, second and fifth in the competition respectively.
Hunt firmed as a genuine Dally M Medal chance as the season wore on, and although he has likely been shaded by the likes of Johnathan Thurston and Jarryd Hayne, a top-five finish appears a near-certainty. Assuming ‘JT’ is considered as a five-eighth for Dally M purposes (he switched to the No.7 in Round 16), Hunt should be a runaway winner of Halfback of the Year honours.
Relive the best parts of Ben Hunt’s breakout season in this outstanding compilation:
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