Hunt lines up against former club Broncos

For Wayne Bennett, letting Ben Hunt walk away from Brisbane was a tough call.

The Broncos coach will find out on Sunday if it was also the right one.

Bennett will receive a jolting reminder of one of his hardest decisions when St George Illawarra No.7 Hunt lines up against his former club in Sunday’s NRL elimination final – his first game at Suncorp Stadium as a Dragon.

Something had to give in early 2017 with both Hunt and then Broncos halves partner Anthony Milford off contract and in demand.

Bennett bit the bullet and opted to prioritise the re-signing of livewire five-eighth Milford, with Hunt snapping up a five-year, $6 million St George Illawarra deal.

Bennett will discover if he pulled the right rein when Hunt lines up against Milford with their season on the line.

Asked what convinced him to put his faith in Milford, Bennett said: “Just the array of skills he’s got.

“Milford is in the category where he can do the unexpected off the top of his head.

“That makes him unpredictable. In those key positions you need those kind of guys.”

Milford eventually re-signed with Brisbane until the end of 2021 for $4 million, in reportedly the club’s richest deal.

“At the end of the day we couldn’t match what they offered him,” Bennett said of Hunt’s off-season departure.

“He made the choice to leave. We didn’t ask him to leave.”

Asked by a TV reporter if there was any way Brisbane could have kept both Milford and Hunt, Bennett said dryly: “Not in our salary cap, maybe yours.”

Hunt and Milford’s path to the NRL finals could not be more contrasting.

Hunt has copped vile social media criticism as the scapegoat for the Dragons’ slide from ladder leaders to a regular season finish of seventh.

But Milford is the toast of Red Hill, sparking sixth placed Brisbane’s run of three straight wins with a masterful kicking game.

“I have never doubted Milford. I never doubted Ben Hunt either but the point is we can’t have everybody,” Bennett said.

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