TAKE a look at any professional sporting team, in particular a successful one, they'll all have a glue guy. More often than not he's the joker, capable of taking the superstar down a peg or two when its needed.
Those in the know will tell you having a good glue guy is as important as your superstar. Few are more in the know than seven-time premiership-winner Wayne Bennett.
He certainly knew what he had in Dan Hunt at the Dragons and how important he was, even in a roster loaded with stars. His teammates did too, though even those close to him weren't always sure which 'Bubsy' would turn up.
"I was always up and down, since I was a kid," Hunt, now three years into retirement, recalls.
"Some days I'd come into training and be the joker and the life of the party, I'd train well, I'd play well. Other days I'd come in and I couldn't even have a conversation with someone.
"I'd be down, I'd isolate myself, I'd train poorly, I'd play poorly. I didn't know what was going on. I just thought I was angry or down because we were losing or I wasn't playing well or whatever it was.
"I just had that mentality 'get over it, get on with it, stop being weak'. I guess I thought if I did talk about, if I did put my hand up for help back then I was weak, I wasn't a man or I wouldn't get picked in the side. I just kept it to myself."
It didn't show on the park, at least initially. He debuted in first grade at 20 in 2007 and, after playing 68 games in his first three NRL seasons, was knocking on the door of rep footy.
Deep in that week to week grind he was able to bury whatever else was going on in his head. In an environment where your every waking minute is accounted for, it's handy place to bury your head.
However, when serious injury struck for the first time in 2010, the mirrored walls of the rehab room spoke louder, with no crowd, no whistles, no teammates to drown out the noise between his ears.
"I used to live inside my head," Hunt said.
"They say the average Australian has about 60-80,000 thoughts a day. They say that 80 per cent of those are negative and 80 per cent of them you had yesterday.
"I reckon I was having 160,000 thoughts a day and 90 per cent of them were negative. You can imagine how much that's going affect your perception and the way you interact with the world.
"The self-doubt, the fear the anger, the isolation. How do you explain something to someone else when you don't understand it yourself?"
That period also introduced him to painkillers which, along with alcohol, became the only thing that turned the volume down.
"It all came to a head in 2010," Hunt said.
"I was playing my best footy in 2010, I'd started every game that year, we were favourites to win the premiership, we were coached by Wayne Bennett and we were flying.
"In round 20 at WIN Stadium, I turned in the warm up and ruptured my Achilles. I was out for the next 12 months. I had to watch my team go on and win the grand final and I went and had my first surgery.
"Everything came crashing down, stuff from my past, my upbringing, stuff I'd just swept under the carpet. I just didn't know how to handle it, or what was going on.
"With surgery you take painkillers to take away the physical pain, I began to take them to take away the emotional pain. It was self-medication because I didn't know how to deal with what was going on in my head.
"In 2010 there was a period that I took that many pain killers... I didn't want to be here. I remember waking up the next day and being so grateful that I was still here, but I just wanted an escape because I was in pain."
After what he now understands was a lifelong struggle, he'd become adept at pulling on the mask that hid the inner turmoil.
It was effective for a long time, but Bennett has always had a knack of seeing what others can't - particularly in matters nothing to do with footy.
"One thing I've learned the hard way is that you can't force someone to seek support," Hunt said.
"They've got to go through it themselves and find their own catalyst. Sometimes people never do. For me it wasn't my upbringing, it wasn't the injuries, it wasn't the addiction, my catalyst came down to two conversations.
"One was with my mum just checking in, coming over and just asking was I OK. It was killing her seeing me like that. Hearing your mum say that is powerful because you have a different look at yourself and how much you're actually struggling.
"The other one was with Wayne Bennett. He sat me down and said 'I can see that you're struggling and it's not easy, I just want you to know I'm here for you and is there anything I can do for you?'
"He created that safe environment where you felt comfortable enough to talk about it. That was the first time in my life that I took off the mask, I took off the brave face, and just let it all out.
"I shared stuff with him that I hadn't shared with anyone, that I'd been struggling with for a long time. There were no answers or solutions with any of that it just gave me some clarity."
With clarity came an insatiable thirst for answers, a journey that began with a visit to The Black Dog Institute, one of Australia's leading mental health research and treatment organisations.
The result was a diagnosis of Bipolar II, a mood disorder in which those affected experience brief periods of "hypomania" or elevated mood and longer depressive episodes.
Undiagnosed and untreated, it can be life-destroying for those battling it and the people who love them. However, as Hunt would learn, diagnosed and treated, it can become a blessing in disguise.
"I spent four hours up there with a psychologist and a psychiatrist. I went through things from my past, my relationships, my personality, my moods, the ups and downs, all this stuff over my whole life," Hunt recalls
"I was diagnosed me with Bipolar II which I now look at as a positive, now I know how to manage it and I've got my good support networks in place.
"Back then I did battle a fair bit post-diagnosis because I was still learning and getting treatment. It was when I got educated the tide started to turn.
"It took me 18 months to get back on the footy field mentally and physically healthy. I ended up playing 150 games throughout my career which I'm really proud of.
"During that time I went and studied at university and TAFE, counselling, social work, mental health, alcohol and other drugs, community services.
"I studied a range of things because I wanted to know more about, not just my own health and mental illness, but have the qualifications and credibility to help other people."
It was a new passion, but it remained a side project amid the demands of an NRL career that continued to have its ups and downs.
Hunt underwent 10 further surgeries that limited him to just 15 games in his final two seasons, including a frustrating 10 weeks between game number 149 and 150 in 2014.
It caught up with him the following preseason when he re-injured his knee at the Auckland Nines. Two different surgeons told him he'd be lucky to run again, let alone play elite level rugby league.
It forced him to call time on his career two months shy of his 29th birthday and put him on a path on which countless other players have struggled.
The Australian Rugby League Commission crunched its own numbers earlier this year and determined that approximately 60 players leave the game each year. Only a quarter do so on their own terms.
Former Souths skipper Greg Inglis became one of the highest profile examples earlier this season when chronic shoulder problems forced him to call time on a glittering career.
His mental health struggles since are well-publicised. The recent battles of former Origin players Jarrod Mullen and Luke O'Donnell have also been thrust into the public sphere.
It's understandable that people held the same fears for Hunt when he was forced into retirement. Three years on the man himself can see why.
"Looking back now I was high risk," Hunt admits.
"I was rattled because footy's your life. It's your identity and purpose When your identity and purpose is taken away, there can be a void left. I feel that's one of the biggest things retiring players do struggle with because they don't fill that void.
"I was high risk to struggle, high risk to go down a really dark path. I'd been diagnosed with type-two Bipolar, I'd just had my identity and purpose taken away, I'd had my addiction issues with drugs and alcohol.
"I was worried I was going back to where I was in 2010 because it was the same set of circumstances but this time my career was over. Something you've done your whole life is gone.
"They were valid concerns but, in the end, I didn't go back to anywhere near that place. I'd built the resilience within myself - I had the coping strategies, I had the awareness, I had the education and I had the confidence to ask for help because I knew it was OK to struggle."
It's an insight hard-earned, but it's also the great irony in the story Hunt continues to write post-football.
The very thing that left him vulnerable to struggle has put him on the path to fulfillment with the Mental Health Movement, the company of which he is founder and director.
Having begun as a mere thought bubble two years ago, MHM has grown into a company with nine employees - including another former NRL star in Chris Houston - that's delivered it's programs to 52 companies and over 300,000 employees.
It sees Hunt and other staff travel all over Australia - from FIFO mining sites in Western Australia or Darwin to corporate headquarters in Melbourne - delivering the Mental Health Blueprint.
The evidence-based, research-backed program raises awareness and provides educational and support resources aimed at making Australian workplaces more mentally healthy.
"The Australian population spends about one third of their time at work," Hunt said.
"It's a lot. We teach people that, if you have a brain in your head you have a mental health and the better you look after your mental health, the better you look after yourself.
"If we can create more mentally supportive workplaces form people when they are at work, they're going to be healthier, happier and safer and they're going to be able to get home to their families.
"We're linking Australian workers to support. Some of them have been suicidal, some of them have lost everything and are struggling, some can't see any light at the end of the tunnel.
"Some are just going through life's challenges and we give them the tools to be able to look after it, we give managers the skills to be able to better support their staff.
"We educate people that mental health and mental illness are not the same thing. I do have a mental illness, but I'm mentally healthy. Everyone can get to that point."
It's a mission that brings a far greater sense of purpose than any he found as a rugby league player.
"Four years ago if someone asked me 'who are you?' I'd have said 'I'm an NRL player'. I now know that's not who I was, it's just what I did," he said.
"It was three or four years ago, I wrote down in my journal and in my phone: I want to create something in the mental health space that was going to help people and the Australian population in a positive way.
"I looked back at that a couple of weeks go to where we are now and what we're doing with the Mental Health Movement.
"I travel all across Australia at mining sites and things like that, having tough conversations with people where they do say they're suicidal. They're still here today and looking after themselves.
"I feel it gives me more purpose than I ever found playing rugby league. I feel this is what I was put on this earth to do. It might sound cheesy or corny to people who read it but it's genuinely how I feel."
So, as an expert on mentally healthy workplaces, what does he make of the NRL as a workplace? It's a question that became pressing after five under 20s players were lost to suicide in he nine years the NYC competition ran.
The short answer for Hunt is that he's confident today's players are more comfortable, and encouraged, to seek support than they were during his darker days.
"The NRL's doing some really, really good things, [NRL Welfare and Education Manager] Paul Heptonstall has led that," Hunt said.
"Each team within the NRL has to have two welfare and education officers to look after the SG Ball, Matts, 20s first and reserve grade.
"We didn't have that back in 2010, I was just lucky we had Wayne Bennett and my close teammates at that time.
"It's still a work in progress but it's come a long away. You look at all the players that are comfortable about coming out and talking about it.
To a young kid that might be struggling, seeing Greg Inglis or Darius Boyd come out and share their experience, they might not feel so alone.
"It doesn't change overnight, it takes time, but I think we're going down the right road. I think we are getting better, the stigma is getting removed, the support's there, I just think the next step is education."
That alone is the main reason Hunt continues telling his story. Having found his own sense of peace, it simply feels wrong not to share it.
"I don't go around sharing my story because I like hearing my own voice," he says.
"I know what it's like to be in that dark place when you feel alone, there's no light at the end of the tunnel, you don't feel it's ever going to pass and you want it to end.
"I also know what it's like to come through that, put things in place and not struggle as much. I know what that's like. If I can share it with someone else and help them look at themselves in a different light and get that support... it's a duty in a way.
"That's what the Mental Health Movement does, we started it based on the power of story. Everyone's got a story, everyone's been through change, challenge and adversity.
"You can't keep that to yourself."