Hunt out to break Brisbane hoodoo against former club

High hopes: Dragons halfback Ben Hunt at training at WIN Stadium on Thursday. Picture: Adam McLean

High hopes: Dragons halfback Ben Hunt at training at WIN Stadium on Thursday. Picture: Adam McLean

Remember the Canberra curse?

Dragons fans can look back and laugh now. Well, maybe one day.

A stretch of 11 losses in 13 years, which led the cheeky buggers at Sportsbet to send “witch doctors” to WIN Stadium in 2014 in a bid to “reverse the curse”.

Certainly the Dragons coaching staff failed to see the funny side.

And now the Dragons are trying to avoid a first-round finals exit and avoid their 11th consecutive loss to the Broncos in Brisbane.

Witch hunt: Sportsbet's stunt as the Dragons tried to break the Canberra curse.

Witch hunt: Sportsbet's stunt as the Dragons tried to break the Canberra curse.

A hoodoo which has lasted nine years and even claimed Wayne Bennett as a victim on four occasions when St George Illawarra coach, including two season-ending playoff losses. 

It’s a remarkable swing, given the Dragons have lost 14 of 17 games against the Broncos at all venues since 2009, having won the previous eight in a row.

But it’s also just a long chapter in the remarkable rivalry which dated back Bennett’s Broncos winning the 1992 and 1993 grand finals against the Dragons. 

Remember “St George can’t play”? Remember the Steelers controversially denied a crucial try in the preliminary final against the Dragons in 1992?

Happy days: Broncos and ex-Dragons duo Darius Boyd and Wayne Bennett.

Happy days: Broncos and ex-Dragons duo Darius Boyd and Wayne Bennett.

Their histories are so intwined, from Gorden Tallis sitting out to Darren Lockyer’s field goal ending the Bennett-Dragons era in 2011. 

At the centre of it all is Bennett. You can already imagine the social media response if Bennett and Brisbane put an end to the Dragons hobbling campaign

Whether it’s player management, or Gareth Widdop’s absence making the too predictable, or the State of Origin let down having a big impact on the mentalities of winners Jack de Belin, Tyson Frizell and Tariq Sims and series loser Ben Hunt, the Dragons only have themselves to blame for their predicament. Whether it’s been Nathan Brown, Steve Price, Bennett or Paul McGregor – and the generation of playing talent – they keep finding themselves in these desperate situations after offering so much hope. 

Bullet proof in May, wounded in September. 

Hunt has copped a lot of vile, personal criticism for his recent form. 

It really is disgraceful. 

And his comments in recent days about stress and anxiety because of these comments reflects the issues about social media, respect and mental health.  But there will also be legitimate scrutiny following his Origin performance this year and, like the Dragons carry their failures and remembered for the dropped catch which led to Johnathan Thurston’s premiership-winning field goal in extra-time in 2015.

Widdop’s return from injury delivers relief, just in time, to help lift him and the Dragons. 

There’s no doubt Hunt is a great player, but the big moments can define careers. 

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