Hunt departure may help Milford blossom
RUGBY LEAGUE: Disappointed they may be that halfback Ben Hunt will be leaving at the end of the 2017 season, but Broncos fans might do well to dwell on what could be a plus.
Obviously Hunt will be a big loss - in a number of areas. As a kid who signed with the Broncos from the outstanding rugby league nursery of St Brendan's College in Yeppoon, he has been an integral part of the club since 2008 when he was the inaugural NYC Player of the Year.
He has since made 166 NRL appearances for the Broncos, won the Paul Morgan Medal as the Broncos' best and fairest in 2014 and is one of those rare species to have played Tests for Australia - three - without having first played Origin.
And despite one minor brush with the law a few years ago, Hunt has otherwise been a model citizen and role model for young kids. He shapes as a massive acquisition for the struggling Dragons.
But having said that, will he actually be a massive loss to the Broncos?
Bearing in mind they have the signature of the brilliant Anthony Milford to secure from 2018 onwards, not mortgaging the farm to keep Hunt may be viewed by fans as astute roster management. After all, does an NRL club really need an outstanding six and an outstanding seven?
Without wanting to devalue the quality of some support players, plenty of teams in recent years have performed superbly without having two gun halves, including last season's grand finalists the Sharks and Storm. James Maloney and Cooper Cronk were the superstars, with the solid Chad Townsend and Blake Green playing the key support role.
And let's not forget that the youthful Panthers came within two wins of a grand final appearance with an exceptional 18-year-old halfback and a back-rower with No.6 on his back.
No team, however, presents a more formidable argument against this philosophy than the Broncos.
They won their first four premierships fielding arguably the most potent halves combination of that era, if not in the modern game - Allan Langer and Kevin Walters.
Yet their last premiership - in 2006 - was delivered to Red Hill with the unheralded Shane Perry as Darren Lockyer's halves partner. While not intending to denigrate Perry, he would be the first to admit he was very much in the shadow of the great man.
And maybe Milford, who in many ways is in the Langer mould, might flourish with a lesser talent beside him. He may be itching to get his hands on the ball more.
What the Broncos need in their halves, more than anything else, is an astute kicker. While Hunt and Milford have their "on” days, neither is anywhere near the quality of a Cronk or a Johnathan Thurston in that department, and for the Broncos to be a genuine premiership force, that is where they need to be.
When searching for a No.7 to replace Ben Hunt, that quality should be very top of the Broncos' list.