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Australia Ben Hunt homecoming as St George Illawarra takes on Rabbitohs at Browne Park

04:07  30 july  2021
04:07  30 july  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Ben Hunt (born 27 March 1990) is an Australian professional rugby league footballer who captains and plays as a halfback for the St George Illawarra Dragons in the NRL and Australia at international level.

Star halfbacks Adam Reynolds and Ben Hunt have issued reminders of their value to the Rabbitohs and Dragons respectively, with key roles in their sides' wins on Saturday. Coming off a disappointing round-one performance, Hunt led the Dragons to a 25-18 win over the Cowboys after Reynolds guided South Sydney to a 26-12 victory against Manly, although he did leave the game early with a concussion. With his future remaining up in the air, the Rabbitohs halfback scored a try and kicked a 40-20 in the lead up to another in a dominant first half at a rain-soaked Brookvale Oval.

a young boy holding a football ball on a field: Ben Hunt when he was playing for St Brendan's College. (Supplied: St Brendan's College Yeppoon) © Provided by ABC NEWS Ben Hunt when he was playing for St Brendan's College. (Supplied: St Brendan's College Yeppoon)

The boy from Dingo can still hear it, even 12 years on: the cries and cheers of coaches and former teachers as he runs out past the bricks and bench seats to the sun-scorched fields of Browne Park.

Those bench seats have turned into sell-out grandstands, the sun-soaked fields have become Suncorp Stadium and, against all odds, the boy from the 340-person town of Dingo has gone from local legend to Queensland hero.

It's a true underdog story, and one that Ben Hunt is determined to repeat this weekend as he returns to Browne Park to hear central Queensland's chants for the first time since 2009.

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Browne Park in Rockhampton will host Saturday afternoons game between St George Illawarra Dragons and the South Sydney Rabbitohs . The Rabbitohs have opened as the .10 favourites with Sportsbet which is probably a little too short but they look like they should be too good here. The Dragons are coming off disappointing losses to the Titans and Manly in recent weeks and are holding onto eighth spot on the ladder for dear life. Souths had a huge win last week and should be able to account for the Dragons again here.

St George Illawarra halfback Ben Hunt is facing up to six weeks on the sidelines after scans picked up an impact fracture in his fibula. The 31-year-old has already set up six tries this year to go with one of his own against North Queensland last week. His spine are also going with him, with Hunt clearly looking at home back beside Andrew McCullough and Corey Norman under their former Brisbane coach Griffin.

His team, the St George Illawarra Dragons, are 9:1 underdogs for their Browne Park clash with Wayne Bennett's high-flying Rabbitohs — whose ranks are a laundry list of the code's most formidable players including top try-scorer Alex Johnston, the ever-formidable Latrell Mitchell, and Mackay product Dane Gagai.

But this is the field where dreams are made — the ground that spawned not only Hunt's career but that of Dragon's coach Rockhampton's own Anthony 'Hook' Griffin.

As he prepares for the first-ever official NRL game played on that ground, Griffin's hoping another will come true.

"It's fantastic just to be able to give the people of Rocky and central Queensland something everyone will enjoy, but if we can spring an upset that'd make it even more special," he said.

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St George Illawarra officials are set to interview Dean Young, Anthony Griffin and David Furner on Thursday before making a decision on the club's next coach. Furner, who coached Canberra and has been an assistant at the Cowboys, Rabbitohs and Knights, was so highly regarded at South Sydney that the club only turned to Wayne Bennett after Anthony Seibold left for Brisbane because Furner already had a job with Leeds. Hunt said he had been impressed with Young, who was appointed interim coach after Paul McGregor's departure three weeks ago, while he was coached by Griffin at the

After the St George Illawarra players arrived at WIN Stadium on Monday, he called them to a meeting to detail what the next six weeks would be like under his coaching as the 11th-placed Dragons attempt to sneak into the finals. Young confirmed Hunt would be playing hooker against the Broncos on Friday in Brisbane and told forward Korbin Sims that he expects him to run hard and lay a platform for playmakers Adam Clune and Corey Norman. "He hasn’t given me a long-term future but straight away, as soon as he got here, he said you are definitely going to be playing hooker this weekend so you can

"We're hell-bent on maintaining our position in the eight and getting to the play-offs, so it's an important day for us."

A bittersweet but long-awaited return

Packed into the crowds at Browne Park will be the "teachers, coaches" friends and family of the local legends.

Blokes like Terry Hansen who coached Hunt at St Brendan's college and who marvels at how the boy from Dingo, about 150 kilometres drive west of Rockhampton,  "hasn't forgotten where he came from".

Griffin's 92-year-old Dad — who's supported the Dragons through Rod Reddy's days — has also promised to brave the crowds.

These are the "special" people Hunt and Griffin credit with shaping their careers — but NRL protocols mean they won't be able to hug their families or mix with their friends.

"We're only allowed in the dressing shed or the playing field; other than that, we're not allowed to have any contact with the outside world," Griffin said.

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St George Illawarra and South Sydney go into battle as top eight outsiders after round 11 defeats delivered significant setbacks to their 2020 finals hopes. The hard-luck Dragons slipped four points behind eighth-placed Manly in 11th while South Sydney Corey Allan is out. Liam Knight and Patrick Mago return on the bench in place of Jack Johns and Hame Sele (shoulder). Johns and Allan dropped off the reserves list an hour before kick-off after Kurt Dillon and Troy Dargan were cut from the squad on Wednesday night. The Rabbitohs have won their past four games against St George Illawarra .

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"We might be able to wave from afar.

"But at least we get a chance to go up there and play … it's a great thing for the town."

Hope in homecoming

The local captain-coach combo will have the Dragons armed with experience: reminding the ranks that the thick track will make it a kicking game; that the burn of the CQ sun will have them tired and thirsty.

And that all eyes and hopes of 5,000 of central Queensland's most ardent league fans will be on them.

"It's a rugby league-based community; they're very passionate and they're going to be out there cheering their heads off," Hunt said.

"It's exciting."

He loves the spotlight (look no further than Origin three) and he loves central Queensland (look no further than the Yeppoon 'Seagulls jocks' that Hansen swears he saw hunt wearing in Origin three).

"Hopefully once I'm finished, I can contribute and help the next generation come through as well," Hunt said.

But this weekend, he'll settle for putting on a show.

"I'm really grateful for the coaches and people who have been involved in my young career and helped me out along the way … it's going to be nice to get up and play a game in front of them," Hunt said.

"It's funny how life works … to coach such a famous club and to be able to play an NRL game at your home ground with Ben Hunt being captain, it'll be a privilege for both of us on Saturday," Griffin said joining Hunt in reminiscing on the Browne Park crowds.

"It's a different atmosphere — this one, I imagine, will be electric."

NRL predicted team lists: Every side's likely lineup for round 21 .
Dramatic scenes across the weekend, with five games pushed back and a host of injuries throwing a spanner in the works for a number of NRL clubs. Josh Morris, Kotoni Staggs and Daine Laurie all suffered injuries over the weekend and will miss extended periods.There are still two games left in round 20, but with round 21 kicking off on Thursday night, we're getting the early mail in as per normal.Here's how each side will line up in round 21.To see how your side lined up in round 20, click here.NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS VS BRISBANE BRONCOSThursday 5th August, 7.50pmKnights predicted team:1. Kalyn Ponga2.

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