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Broncos drop Ben Hunt for Souths NRL clash

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 8/06/2017 Laine Clark

He is St George Illawarra's $6 million man.

Yet Ben Hunt is suddenly not worthy of a Brisbane bench spot after being sensationally dropped for Friday night's NRL clash with South Sydney at Suncorp Stadium.

In a mighty fall from grace, Hunt will run out for Queensland Cup side Ipswich against fellow Broncos feeder side Brisbane Norths on Saturday after Wayne Bennett's shock call.

However, Bennett has ruled out granting Hunt an early release to the Dragons after confirming Kodi Nikorima would start at halfback against the Rabbitohs.

Hunt may be worth millions to the Dragons when he starts a five-year deal in 2018 but the star halfback has not even been kept as a Brisbane bench utility against Souths, with Bennett opting for bargain-buy Benji Marshall.

With the luxury of a full-strength squad to choose from, Bennett said he simply couldn't justify picking Hunt.

Brisbane have lost two-straight matches since Hunt returned from a long-term hamstring complaint.

"It was a hard conversation to have but you have to have them," Bennett said.

"It was about having options and he was the least performed out of those players (Nikorima and Marshall)."

Hunt appears to face an uphill battle to break back into the Broncos side again this year as Bennett plans for the future.

But Bennett dismissed the notion of Hunt leaving for the Dragons early.

"Ben has always been going to the Dragons (but) it's not this year," he said.

"He's important to our club and will remain so.

"We don't think he will be out of first grade too long.

"He won't be going anywhere. That is not even an agenda item."

Bennett said the brief would be simple for Hunt when he runs out for Ipswich.

"We need him to run the ball more. That's part of the job description," he said.

Nikorima will combine with Queensland five-eighth Anthony Milford in the halves against the Rabbitohs after missing last week's loss to Sydney Roosters due to a shoulder complaint.

Bennett said he was keen to keep former Kiwi captain Marshall, who has impressed since signing a modest one-season Broncos deal this year.

"He wanted an opportunity and we gave him that," Bennett said.

"He is coming back to the Benji form of old.

"He is enjoying his footy again. He has been outstanding at the club.

"We are keen to keep him here. He's a valued player."

STATS THAT MATTER

* South Sydney have won nine of 35 matches against Brisbane.

* Brisbane are looking for five-straight wins against South Sydney for the first time since 2004.

* Broncos are looking for seven-straight wins at Suncorp Stadium for the first time since 2015.

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