AAP Rugby

Blues brace for Maroons’ new bench weapon

By AAP Newswire

He's no Kalyn Ponga, but NSW are bracing for a similar impact off the bench from Queensland's new bench weapon Ben Hunt in State of Origin III.

After picking Hunt at halfback for their opening two matches - both defeats - the Maroons opted not to stick with the St George Illawarra star for the dead rubber match in Brisbane.

Instead maligned playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans was chosen in the No.7, with Hunt shafted to the bench role as a replacement for the injured Ponga.

Hunt was heavily criticised for his role in the Maroons' game-two defeat, particularly during the crucial ten-minute period when NSW were down to 12 men.

And the 28-year-old found an ally in Blues front-rower Paul Vaughan, who is expecting his NRL teammate to respond from dummy-half at Suncorp Stadium.

"I don't agree with it. I came out and said that the day after the game. You can't put the loss on one player's head, especially Benny," Vaughan said.

"But you know, he'll be coming out, he's got a good head on his shoulders, and he'll be doing the best he can next Wednesday. I'll back him 100 per cent."

Vaughan said Hunt could flourish away from the spotlight of being the Maroons' chief playmaker and cause the Blues headaches around the ruck.

Hunt spent the opening four years of his career coming off the bench, and also made his Origin debut last year as a utility.

While Hunt is ranked among the competition leaders in kicks this season, Vaughan believes the Kangaroos representative can become a threat in defence as well.

"You saw him play for the (Brisbane) Broncos at nine. So he's a good defender, actually. He gets up under the ball and he's pretty strong for a little fella," he said.

"Out of dummy half there he's going to be dangerous so we'll be looking to do a job on him."