Phoenix Hunt: The 18-year old leading Easts towards the Premier Rugby decider
By Tim Mosey
Easts’ scrumhalf Phoenix Hunt plays rugby with plenty of time on his hands.
He answers his phone in a similar way.
“Is now a bad time to talk mate?”
“No not at all. I wasn’t up to much, just playing a bit of Fortnite,” Hunt chuckled.
It’s this honest and spontaneous approach that has played Hunt thrive for the Tigers this year.
The psychology student who hails from Melbourne has been on a surreal journey in his first year of Premier Rugby.
“It’s been a crazy year, coming into Premier Grade, playing against guys like Quade Cooper and with guys like Andrew Ready and Izaia Perese. It’s been hard to believe.
“I expected to play colts for most of the season and maybe come off the bench for Premier Grade later in the year.”
But the 18-year old has taken everything in his stride this year.
“I’ve thought that it’s been similar to school rugby, in terms of the speed of the game. The physicality though has definitely been a few steps up. That aspect has been challenging.”
Hunt’s abrasive style has suited the intensity of senior football.
“I’ve talked with my dad a lot and he has always said that I’d need something different because I’m not as fast as other halfbacks,” Hunt says.
“I guess I need to be a bit more physical than others.”
The former Nudgee College 1st XV back has been exceptional for Easts all season in their quest to win the Welsby Cup and Hunt understands the background of his name.
The surname ‘Hunt’ has been synonymous with QLD Schoolboy and Premier Rugby across the past 20 years.
“A few people have asked me if I’m related to any of the other Hunts from the last few years.
“You know (Norths centre) Tony Hunt? We joke that we are related to each other,” Hunt suggested.
He and five eighth Jack Frampton have formed a lethal combination particularly toward the back half of the regular season and they’ll need to fire this weekend when the Tigers meet GPS in the preliminary final.
“Jack has this crazy right foot step and he can break the line from anywhere. He’s been awesome all season and hopefully we can play well again on Sunday.
“To be honest I think the first twenty minutes is critical for us. We tend not to go too well if we don’t start well so setting up the first block should set our standards for the 80 minutes.
“Last week I played against former Melbourne Rebels halfback Richard Kingi and I play Reds halfback James Tuttle this weekend, then if we win it’s Tate McDermott next weekend against UQ.
“There is no easy competition.”
“I think I’ve developed my game so much compared to say school rugby, playing against quality opposition each week.
“Tuttle, McDermott, Kingi and Harry Nucifora have all been challenging opposition this year.”
Hunt said he expected his side’s more experienced players to step up and thrive this weekend.
“Our go to man is basically our captain Matt Gordon.
“He is a great skipper. He is a ‘follow me’ type leader and this rubs off well on our playing group.
“He can really rev the team up when he needs to and he can make breaks out of nothing. He is that player we all aspire to be.”
As with many young aspiring players Hunt yearns to play Super Rugby though understands the pathway from club to state rugby now has the additional step of the National Rugby Championship.
“I really would like to move into an NRC side if I got the chance after finals. We have an U20 comp after the season which Gilly (Reds Academy coach Jason Gilmore) has been preparing us for. That will be awesome too.”
This weekend Hunt will set aside his studies and his Fortnite avatar.
He and skipper Gordon will take the contest to GPS, Sunday 3:05pm at Ballymore.