Either way, NSW legend Andrew Johns has a lot to answer for if Queensland’s halfback inspires an against-the-odds State of Origin game two win in Sydney next week.
The progress made by first choice Maroons No.7 Daly Cherry-Evans since his NRL club grabbed exclusive access to “Immortal” Johns as a consultant has been well documented.
But few knew the impact Johns had made on Cherry-Evans’ Queensland understudy Ben Hunt.
Broncos halfback Hunt may yet be pitched into a must-win Origin II clash for the injury-hit reigning eight-time series champions as Cherry-Evans battles to overcome a knee complaint.
And Hunt admitted Johns would be the man he would aspire to be after watching him tear his beloved Queensland apart as a wide eyed 15-year-old in 2005 – the last time NSW savoured an Origin series success.
“One of my biggest Origin memories was coming down to watch Andrew Johns absolutely towel Queensland up himself,” Hunt said.
“He was one of my favourite players ever.
“I was supporting Queensland but to see him tear us apart was something I will never forget.
“I have met him (Johns) a couple of times but never really had a lot to do with him.”
The Manly playmaker could not rave enough about Johns’ influence at the Sea Eagles – skills he hopes to display in game two if he overcomes his nagging knee complaint.
“He’s been huge. There’s no secret to how good Joey was – he’s an Immortal,” Cherry-Evans said.
“Anything he says at training I am more than welcome to try and listen and learn and hopefully take into the next game I play.”
Unfortunately for Queensland the biggest tip Johns has provided Cherry-Evans in recent weeks has not exactly been constructive.
“He actually asked politely if I could have a few weeks off,” Cherry-Evans laughed about Johns’ Origin advice.
He may still be sweating on Cherry-Evans’ fitness but Hunt still felt like an overnight success arriving in the Maroons camp – five years in the making.
Hunt has finally found his feet in the NRL, promising to deliver on the remarkable promise shown by pipping the likes of Ben Barba, Tony Williams and Chris Sandow to claim the inaugural under 20s player of the year award in 2008.
“It does feel like that,” said 2009 NRL debutant Hunt when asked if he felt like a five-year overnight success.
“All of the boys at the Broncos give me heat about it. Jack Reed reckons it is still my debut season.
“It was pretty tough (making the leap to the NRL). In the Under 20s, I was always playing halfback where I was very comfortable.
“To be back playing halfback is something I am enjoying.”