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No dozing off: Why Hunt won't say no when Billy calls

If Maroons fans are fair dinkum, Ben Hunt will never have to buy a beer for himself in a Queensland pub for the rest of his life.

Origin is punctuated by iconic moments and legendary performances, with Hunt searing his name into Queensland’s consciousness when he scored the series clinching try of the 2022 series – complete with his own iconic commentary from his former skipper Cameron Smith yelling "Go Dozer! Gooo! Go! Go!”

Those moments are why Hunt – who will play his 18th Origin game on Wednesday night – won’t ever say no to a Maroons jersey, with only captain Daly Cherry-Evans surpassing him for experience with 22 matches.

“It's always exciting when you get a call from Billy and to get back in the camp, see everyone again,” Hunt told

Ben Hunt: Behind the scenes

“I’ve been asked a few times now (about considering representative retirement), but to me, every camp is just as exciting as the very first time.

When you see Billy's phone number calling you, it's seriously just as special as the first time. You get butterflies again and I'll cherish it forever.

Maroons hooker Ben Hunt

“On the retiring from it, it's going to be hard. Obviously I'm getting to the back end of my career, but as long as Billy still wants to pick me, it's going to be hard to say no. I just love it that much and cherish it while I can.

QLD Camp Day 1: Hopgood and Dearden

Hunt will be one of the more experienced players of the field at Accor Stadium, with Eels workhorse J’maine Hopgood at the other end of the scale as the Maroons lone debutant for Game One.

In the same way as Hunt was, Hopgood has already been given a taste of what to expect at this level as part of an extended squad last year, with the Maroons also identifying Ezra Mam and Brendan Piakura as Queensland players of the future.

“It’s extremely exciting, I love it. It's always exciting when you bring young guys in to see what they have really got at this level,” Hunt said.

“I think J’maine’s a guy that really suits Origin. He's not afraid of hard work and getting his nose dirty.

“It’s been happening that way for years. I came in a couple of times as 18th man a few years ago and Daly did it years ago, Tommy Dearden was 18th man as well a couple for a years.

“It's just a really good way to expose those guys to what camp life's about and what we're trying to achieve and get them ready for when they do get their opportunity.”

Ben Hunt in Origin camp for Game One.
Ben Hunt in Origin camp for Game One. ©Scott Davis / NRL Images

Hunt's Origin forays have seen him take on many roles for the Maroons over the years – starting off the bench in 2017, halfback in 2018 and hooker in 2019 as well as bench utility roles including at lock, centre and hooker ever since.

The Dragons skipper is one of five club captains in the Queensland set-up, with Manly veteran Daly Cherry-Evans leading the side while Hunt's dummy half partner Harry Grant has stepped up to lead the Storm this year. Tom Dearden and Reuben Cotter share the honours at the Cowboys, while forwards Pat Carrigan and Moeaki Fotuaika step into the role in the absence of their regular skippers.

And although Cherry-Evans will be the man at the front of the queue to lead the Maroons out, Hunt's leadership and desire to lift those around him in the team will have him playing a uniquely important role for the squad.

Ben Hunt and Jaydn Su'A at the Dragons.
Ben Hunt and Jaydn Su'A at the Dragons. ©NRL Images

“If you could paint Queensland as a person, you'd be close to painting him... and it wouldn't be a very attractive photo,” Hunt's Red V teammate Jaydn Su’A joked.

“But he's helped me a lot and he's someone I probably haven't thanked enough – he's helped me around my standards and making sure I hold myself to a higher standard."

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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