Hunt's Broncos leadership carrot
RUGBY LEAGUE: Darren Lockyer gave the 228 guests at last week's Sunshine Coast Men of League Christmas luncheon a scoop that may well make Ben Hunt the player he has long promised to be.
Fresh from a Broncos board meeting the previous day, Lockyer informed the gathering that Darius Boyd was "likely” to be the Broncos' new captain, then - possibly as a throwaway line - slipped in "and Ben Hunt will be vice-captain”.
That information is yet to be officially announced, but we can assume the highly decorated former Broncos skipper does have some inside mail.
Ironically the scoop came just a day after the 26-year-old halfback, who is off contract at the end of 2017, announced he would be testing his value on the open market.
Three Sydney-based clubs are apparently chasing the signature of Hunt, who was the inaugural NYC player of the year in 2008.
But with Broncos coach Wayne Bennett adamant he wants Hunt to stay at Red Hill and the club having already tabled a new three-year deal, the appointment of the No.7 as vice-captain to Boyd is an intriguing decision.
There is a belief among the Broncos hierarchy - including Lockyer - that the added leadership responsibility will bring out the best in the halfback, who has been on the Broncos' books since he was 12.
In fact, a school of thought exists that he would have blossomed as the captain, as Lockyer and the great Alfie Langer did.
Hunt is somewhat maligned, and comments attributed to him last week won't help win over those who have sharpened their knives. To publicly declare he had "gone missing” for 10 and 15 minutes in games last season may have been an honest assessment of his form, but it was ill-advised.
Still, he made the comment and has conceded he is working on righting those wrongs. And for the Broncos to become a genuine premiership threat, Hunt has to be an 80-minute schemer.
Those who are not rusted-on Hunt fans are of the opinion the Broncos offloaded the wrong halfback at the end of last season.
With Hunt and Anthony Milford taking the side to the 2015 grand final, an obvious roadblock was standing in the way of the wonderfully talented Ash Taylor, who was 20 at the time. Rather than stand in the way of Taylor's development, the Broncos benevolently let him go to the Titans, where he subsequently became a sensation.
In essence, the cover the Broncos once had in the halves is no longer there, so Hunt owes those who believed in him and allowed Taylor to leave. And I don't mean he owes them by re-signing - he owes them in respect of having a cracker of a season in 2017.
And being named vice-captain, ahead of the likes of internationals Sam Thaiday, Alex Glenn, Matt Gillett and his good mate Andrew McCullough, may just be the stimulus he needs.