Dragons-bound Hunt getting married on World Cup game day

Passed off: Ben Hunt. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Passed off: Ben Hunt. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled

As a chastened Josh Dugan vowed to lock himself away on days off, one of his Australian teammates revealed he planned to run off to Byron Bay on game-day during the World Cup.

The Australians gathered in Brisbane on Wednesday ahead of a weekend trial against Fiji and Papua New Guinea at Suva's ANZ Stadium, with an errant Dugan assuring the media there would be no repeat of the NSW north-coast drinking session with Blake Ferguson during State of Origin that reportedly played a role in coach Laurie Daley's sacking.

But across the room, halfback Ben Hunt was explaining to Fairfax Media why he'd be in the very same area while the green-and-golds take on France at GIO Stadium on November 3.

"I've got a wedding on ... my wedding," he said. "Third of November. Bridget is my fiance, we've been together a few years and we've got a little boy, Brady. We're getting married down at Byron.

"I had to ask Mal [Meninga] about it last week. It's the day we play France. I asked if I could have it off.

"He's been excellent Mal, he's really understanding for me to go and get married. [Teammates] Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire, they were invited.

"Josh McGuire knocked back his own brother's wedding so I don't think he'd be coming to mine. There's a few boys who had to pull out but there's no one in the bridal party who had to pull out so it's all good."

The rather seismic scheduling clash is compelling evidence of how little chance Hunt, 27, thought he had of making Australia's squad for the 14-team tournament, to be held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, starting on October 27.

He joins St George Illawarra next year and thought he'd be moving to Wollongong rather than travelling around Australia and the Pacific for the World Cup as Cameron Smith's back-up hooker over the next two months.

"We had it all planned for the next week or so, the big move. Then the camp happened and that all changed," Hunt said.

"To be honest, with the year ... I played a bit of Queensland Cup through the year so I wasn't really thinking about playing for Australia."

The ARL Commission is flying the families of the Australian squad to Fiji for the weekend, where the players will take on Samoa for 40 minutes and PNG for 40 minutes.

Asked if he would be out and about during the World Cup, Cronulla signing Dugan said at the Brisbane Sofitel: "Definitely not. Days off will be spent in bed.

"I was a bit surprised by my selection to be honest ... but Mal has shown faith in me and now I don't want to let him down. It's massive and pretty humbling having someone of the stature of Mal to back me."

Meanwhile, Newcastle have defended the decision to pull Samoans Sione Matautia and Tautau Moga out of the island nation's World Cup side.

Matautia was asked to stand down after several incidents of concussion this year while Moga is changing clubs from Brisbane and had shoulder surgery.

"With Sione it was basically advice after we sent him to see Dr Paul McCrory in Melbourne – who is the No.1 expert in this field," Knights high-performance manager Tony Ayoub said.

"He had some tests and the doctor said there was a very minor bit of doubt there with regard to him resuming contact. There is no ongoing problem, he isn't suffering memory loss or headaches or anything like that.

"But with concussion, it's a fast-developing field. How long do you need? Sione wanted to play in the World Cup but our advice to him after seeing the doctor was that it was in his best interests if he didn't."

Best behaviour: Josh Dugan. AAP Image/NRL

Best behaviour: Josh Dugan. AAP Image/NRL

Ayoub said there was no connection between the decision on Matautia and the legal action taken by Scottish winger James McManus over head knocks received while at the same club.

"Never discussed," he said. "In the case of Tautau, he needed a shoulder clean-out. There was some talk of him having it after the World Cup but then there was the risk it would have an impact early next year. He's at a new club, he's starting again."

Ayoub admitted there was always a conflict between the importance of representative football and the interest of clubs.

"There is some robust conversation, I can tell you," he said. "But the Knights do want our players to play rep football and we do know what a big honour the World Cup is for our players."

He said the club played no part in new recruit Aiden Guerra's decision not to play for Italy.