The boy from Dingo an underdog story: Ben Hunt 's hopes in long-awaited homecoming
Print text onlyPrintCancelThe 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.Key points:Ben Hunt and Anthony Griffin return to the field that spawned their careers for the first official NRL game played in Rockhampton
Their team, the St George Illawarra Dragons, are 9:1 underdogs against the South Sydney RabbitohsHunt hopes to create an upset in front of the friends and family that he cannot hug due to NRL COVID protocolsThose 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.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. headtopics.com
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.Browne Park will host its first NRL season game this weekend, which will see local legends Ben Hunt and coach Anthony Griffin return to their home region.
(ABC Capricornia: Paul Culliver)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.
"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 returnPacked 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".Ben Hunt (right) celebrates a St George try with teammate Josh Kerr. headtopics.com
(AAP: Brendon Thorne)Griffin's 92-year-old Dad — who's supported the Dragons through Rod Reddy's days — has also promised to brave the crowds.Find more local newsTell us your location and find more local ABC News and informationThese 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."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."
Ben Hunt's career has taken him from sun-soaked central Queensland to the sell-out stadiums.()Hope in homecomingThe 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. headtopics.com
"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).Ben Hunt (centre with red cap) during a visit to his former school, St Brendan's College in Yeppoon.
(Supplied: St Brendan's College)"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." Read more: ABC News »
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