Dragons 2018: Hunt puts his hand up after horror night

TOUGH NIGHT: Ben Hunt in action during his side's win over the Tigers. Picture: AAP Image
TOUGH NIGHT: Ben Hunt in action during his side's win over the Tigers. Picture: AAP Image

AFTER the night  he'd just endured, you'd have forgiven Ben Hunt for saying 'thanks, but no thanks’ to the waiting media scrum in the Leichhardt Oval tunnel.

The Dragons No. 7 is no stranger to scrutiny. Ever since 'that’ moment in 2015 grand final, he's been under the microscope.

It's why he could see the irony when he cold dropped the kickoff to the second half against the Tigers on Saturday night, the grin said it all.

It was part of a horror night for the 28-year-old, who's second kick of the night sailed out on the full. Minutes later, he spilled the ball over the try-line in attempting to score the opening four-pointer.

If his second-half fumble had him thinking it just wasn't his night, he was left in no doubt when he was sin-binned not long after it. The Dragons only conceded the ensuing penalty goal with Hunt off the field and went on to notch a crucial 20-10 win.

Still, it was probably a night Hunt would rather forget, and certainly rather not go over in detail with a group of journos in the immediate aftermath. All players have that option after a game, but it says a lot about him that he fronted up.

“I had a bit of a laugh at myself,” Hunt said of the kickoff fumble.

“The fans were in to me before they even kicked it off so I knew they'd be having a chuckle. Those things happen sometimes in a game so, you've got to laugh it off.” 

He had a similar take on his sin-binning.

“There was a few things going through my mind, it's the first time I've ever been sent off,” he said.

“I didn't really see if I was onside. I was trying to look at the replay but I couldn't see it. I asked the ref afterwards and he said 'mate you were just off’.

“It was a big surprise but we obviously got a warning midway through the first half. It was fair time after that so I was a little bit shocked by it but they've been doing it all year so I've got to live with it.

“It was a big thing for the boys to get around me, they've been doing that all year for everyone. To get through those 10 minutes pretty clean was a big effort by them and I really appreciate that.

"That's what they win was probably built on, those gutsy efforts. It wasn't a pretty outing for us but I think it was one we needed. We found our attitude in defence and it's always good to get a gutsy win.”

The win, that put his side back in the top four, was almost reduced to a footnote such has been the scrutiny on Hunt, with wife Bridget compelled to take to social media this week to label the worst of it bullying.

Hunt said it was a less a flat-out defence of him and more a wider message about what players go through behind the scenes.

“There's been a lot of things [said] over the year and obviously everyone cops their fair share of criticism. It wasn't just speaking about me.

“I've played with a lot of players who've had that sort of thing through their career and haven't handled it that well and finished their careers early and had depression and things like that.

“It was more about speaking for the league as a whole and letting people know it's not all right to take it too far.”

For his part, Hunt is well aware that the only place to answer critics is on the park.

“I feel like I've had some slumps in my career before and played bad games before and I've got through that. I'll just do that again,” he said.

“The biggest thing I work on is just stuff at training on the field. I feel the harder I work there, and the more I do those things repetitively at training, the better it'll come on game day.

“I fee like I'm working pretty hard at that and I don't feel I'm that far off. There's just a couple of little errors I need to fix up but I think, if I keep working at it, I'll come good.

“I need to get better. I know the rest of the team played well [on Saturday]but I need to get better for the team. We haven't been playing our best but we're still in the top four and we've got two tough games to finish [the season].

“I know the Knights had a pretty good win [on Saturday] and we've got the Bulldogs than them to finish, so it's going to be pretty tough. We've got to concentrate on them two and get a couple of wins and that'll set us up [for the finals].”