It says a lot about the flak Dragons half Ben Hunt’s copped of late that several of his former Broncos teammates joined him in the away shed after his side’s stunning 48-18 finals victory.
Broncos skipper Darius Boyd had felt compelled to jump to Hunt’s defence in the lead-up, saying the relentless nature of criticism was unwarranted and unfair.
A large section of his own fans didn’t listen, brandishing signs that read ‘kick it to Hunt’ and jeering him at every kickoff.
“Which kickoff?” he said when asked if he heard the jeers.
“Everyone seemed to keep coming. Duft [Matt Dufty] said ‘I’ll swap you’ and I went over the other side and they just kept coming.”
Hunt stood up to the barrage without error on multiple occasions as his side ran in 28 points in a first-half boil-over.
He could have enjoyed the last laugh but he wasn’t about to rub it in his critics’ face ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Rabbitohs.
‘‘That’s not my attitude at all,” he said.
“I’ve played a lot of footy now and the people I play for isn’t my critics, it’s for my teammates, to make my family proud and that’s going to be one motivation next week.
“The last month, month and a half has been pretty aggressive down there, the fans the media, everyone but it’s something that’s part of rugby league. You’ve just got to learn how to deal with that and move on.
“I’ll definitely take a lot out of [Sunday], even last week against the Knights I really simplified what I wanted do.
“I felt like I achieved that last week and just wanted to build on it again this week. Especially at the back end of the game I thought I did that.
“The biggest things [next week] will be what I’ve focused on the last two weeks, just defending well and finishing our sets with kicks really well. That’s the main job I’ll be focusing on.”
A return to his pre-Origin form it was not, but putting Tariq Sims over for the first of his three tries and a measured kicking game, including a 40-20, to get his side home were crucial and will do his confidence a world of good.
He’ll need every bit of it against the Rabbitohs, with Gareth Widdop’s season over after again dislocating the shoulder that kept him out of the Dragons final three games of the regular season.
He’ll join Paul Vaughan, Jason Nightingale, Euan Aitken and possibly Jack de Belin – who re-injured his ankle in the win – in a crowded casualty ward. It will see the Dragons start at long odds against the Rabbitohs but it’s a position they clearly relished in week one.
“I remember him doing it the first time and that was a minimum 3-4 week injury and he did it again tonight and, straight away, he knew he was gone,” Hunt said.
“I played at the Broncos for a long time and they can score some tries pretty quickly. I saw him go off and I thought ‘here we go, this could really be a turning point for us’ but we managed the hang on. It was disappointing but he was the difference for us.
“He’s such a class player and takes a load off your shoulders knowing he’s on the other side. We’ll have to try and work our how we play well [without him]. It’ll simplify things, we’ll play a more simple go-forward sort of game.
“We’ll be feeling pretty confident after [the win], I think we showed we can really do something in this competition.”