Ben Hunt has been the form halfback of the season so far.
Ben Hunt has been the form halfback of the season so far. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Ben leads Hunt for Origin jersey

BECAUSE Queensland selectors stay loyal, Cooper Cronk would be the Maroons' halfback for Origin I at the MCG in three weeks if he had not retired from rep footy.

But, on form, Cronk could not possibly be picked. And nor can Michael Morgan wear the No.7 for the Maroons.

The selection system is flawed, and unfair, if Ben Hunt is not handed the jersey that has been the exclusive property of Johnathan Thurston and Cronk since Queensland's total domination of State of Origin kicked off back in 2006.

Hunt has been far and away the best halfback in the NRL this season and is one of the chief reasons the Dragons are leading the premiership race and have shot to outright favouritism.

Ben Hunt of the St. George-Illawarra Dragons and Cooper Cronk of the Sydney Roosters at Sydney's army barracks ahead of their first ANZAC Day match at Allianz Stadium. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Ben Hunt is set to replace Cooper Cronk in the Queensland No.7 jersey. Philip Hillyard

And despite winning the Paul Morgan Medal at the Broncos in 2014 as player of the year, his form at his new club has arguably been the best of a decade-long NRL career.

But while the question of who succeeds Cronk as Queensland halfback will be answered when the team is announced in 17 days, a query that is not as easily unraveled is why the former Storm maestro has failed to adjust to his new club, while Hunt has blossomed at his.

A wonderful player, a total professional and an apparent premiership-winning catalyst for the Roosters, Cronk has not delivered at Bondi as most envisaged he would.

Most parts on his game, and in particular his kicking, have been well below the impeccable standards he has set.

Dragon's Ben Hunt during the ANZAC DAY match between the Sydney Roosters and St. George-Illawarra Dragons at Allianz Stadium. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Ben Hunt has made an immediate impact at the Dragons. Philip Hillyard

On the other hand, Hunt has been a revelation. All parts of his game have been on song, especially his kicking.

The comparison between the two champion halfbacks is remarkable.

Where many thought Cronk would give the Roosters an unbeatable edge, others believed Hunt may struggle in his new environment under the pressure of his big-dollar contract.

But the opposite has occurred - at least for the first third of the season.

And maybe that is the case because Cronk had been such a dominant force at Melbourne since 2004, that players simply fell in line with his style. He was, in a positive manner, the most integral part of the Storm furniture.

Cooper Cronk of the Roosters reacts following his team's loss to the Dragons in the Round 8 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Sydney Rooster at Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Cooper Cronk has struggled to find his best form at the Roosters. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Conversely, Hunt was often taken for granted at the Broncos - if not by the coach and his fellow players, certainly by the fans and the media.

He was much maligned and certainly not appreciated for the many qualities and skills he possessed, or for his toughness.

And while some Roosters players may be second guessing the playmaking traits of Cronk, Hunt's Dragons teammates have unreservedly thrown their total faith and commitment behind him.

On paper the Roosters are a much better side than they have shown and no doubt will be a force if - and when - Cronk and his team gel.

In the meantime, the Broncos are stumbling without Hunt while the Dragons are cruising with him calling the shots.

Now is the time for him to shine in Maroon.