Blues think they’ve picked Queensland’s plan
NSW coach Brad Fittler expects Queensland to pick Ben Hunt at hooker for the Origin series opener.
Hunt's kicking game caught the eye as he got St George Illawarra home against Daly Cherry-Evans' Manly on Saturday with a grubber for a late Dragons try to grab a hard-earned 12-10 win
Hunt, the interchange utility in Queensland's Game Three win last year, was resistant to suggestions he should be played at hooker for the Dragons earlier this year.
But Fittler believes Hunt's speed and trickery out of dummy-half could be preferred to incumbent Andrew McCullough and Roosters rake Jake Friend.
Maroons coach Kevin Walters last week kept open the option of starting with Hunt at No.9 for Queensland for the first time when the team is named in five weeks.
"One might be hooker and the other halfback,'' Fittler said when asked if he would prefer to face Maroons captaincy favourite Cherry-Evans or Hunt as the Maroons no.7.
Fittler said Hunt had the better of Cherry-Evans in their head-to-head NRL contest with their respective kicking games, but also in the Dragon's willingness to get his hands dirty.
"Hunt went that bit further (than Cherry-Evans),'' he said.
"He kicked well and he played tough too He looked like he had been in a real battle (after the game). He has a different style to Cherry-Evans.''
While Hunt would seem a certain selection in the 17-man Queensland squad for the June 5 series opener, it becomes a question of when Queensland want to use his variety and pace from dummy-half.
To start with Hunt would seem to accept that a specialist hooker must be a Maroons interchange selection, because Hunt cannot be asked to play 80 minutes in the middle.
Walters may prefer to bed the game down with a specialist dummy-half used to the workload in defence.
Hunt's average tackle count of 19.4 after five rounds is high for a halfback and he missed 3.4 tackles per game on average.
McCullough was the most prolific tackler in the NRL with 45.8 tackles per game, while Friend averages 36 for his two games before a shoulder injury intervened.
Roosters officials say co-captain Friend, who has represented Australia but not Queensland, will return from injury in Thursday's Anzac Day clash against the Dragons.