Broncos name three rookies for Sharks - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Broncos name three rookies for Sharks

By Wayne Heming 16/06/2009 07:47:12 PM Comments (0)

Halfback Ben Hunt's eagerly awaited NRL debut for Brisbane has sadly arrived too late for Cyril Connell who signed him when he was just 13.

Four days after Connell's moving funeral, Hunt and two other rookies - Dale Copley and Guy Williams - have been named to make their first grade debuts for Brisbane against Cronulla on Monday night.

Connell spotted Rockhampton-born Hunt on one of his many scouting forays around Queensland.

He knew he'd found a kid out of the box.

He watched proudly as Hunt dominated in the Under 20s Cup in 2008 knowing he'd get a chance to play first grade this year when Brisbane handed over a slew of players for Origin.

Sadly, Connell passed away earlier this month.

"It's pretty sad because Cyril has only missed his debut by two weeks," said Brisbane coach Ivan Henjak.

"He signed him to a scholarship when he was 13.

"Cyril had been really excited about him for a long time so his debut is tinged with a touch of sadness.

"It's a good story but it would have been nice for Cyril to have seen his debut although I'm sure he'll be looking down watching."

Connell had a soft spot for every kid he brought to the Broncos.

But Hunt, from the Blackwater Crushers, the same club as hooker PJ Marsh, was one he had high hopes for.

"Right from the beginning he said he thought he was a special kid," said Henjak.

Hunt was outstanding in last year's Toyota Cup, even drawing praise from former Newcastle great Andrew Johns who liked what he saw of the then 18 year-old in the under 20s grand final.

One thing in Hunt's favour in his debut will be that Brisbane's pack is missing second-rower Sam Thaiday to Origin duty.

"The forward pack really needs to stand up for him," said Henjak, adding none of the three rookies were under pressure or had anything to lose.

"It's a young backline and if our forwards get rolled then those poor young kids will be in for a very tough night.

"The forwards have got a huge responsibility on Monday and I'm expecting them to respond to that."

Hunt comes off contract at the end of the season and Henjak knows there'll be plenty of interest in him from rival NRL clubs.

"He's still got a long way to go yet, there's no doubt about that," said Henjak.

"We hope he's going to stay and develop, because there is a bit of developing to do.

"He's got some good players to learn from in that position and I hope he stays patient with it.

"Whether we can keep him, I don't know."

Copley will rekindle memories of another exciting 17 year-old, Karmichael Hunt, when he makes his debut at fullback against the Sharks.

"We're pretty excited about seeing him and again, he's not under any pressure," said Henjak.

NSW selectors have helped Brisbane's cause by picking Cronulla enforcer Paul Gallen and five-eighth Trent Barrett for Origin.

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