“This is next level. It’s awesome”

Published 1:00pm 22 July 2022

“This is next level. It’s awesome”
Words by Kylie Knight

The Dolphins’ announcement this week that former junior Cody Hunter has been signed on a train and trial contract fulfills a promise to develop young players within the club.

Moreton Daily caught up with the 20-year-old this week for a chat about what it means to him and how he’ll make the most of the opportunity.

For Hunter, the training fields at Dolphins HQ feel like an extension of his backyard and it’s been like that for many years as he’s diligently worked on his kicking game.

Home was just a stone’s throw away at Kippa-Ring, when he was growing up, and the now Scarborough resident is still at Dolphins HQ all the time.

“It’s weird because whenever I’m not at home, I’ll be down at the fields or at the gym (at Dolphins). It’s special,” Hunter explains.

Born and bred on the Redcliffe peninsula, Hunter remarkably has no family ties to rugby league or the club and only started playing the sport because his mates were.

His first game for the Redcliffe Dolphins was a six-year-old playing for under-7s Tate team.

“I can’t remember it, hey, it was so long ago,” he says laughing.

“I think I cried. Dad said I cried and hid behind the coach, didn’t want to touch the ball, didn’t want to tackle. It was pretty embarrassing.

“I had a few mates back then at that age that I wanted to play with and they sort of got me into it. I found out, when I rocked up to training, that none of my mates were in that team, so I think that’s half the reason why I was crying 24/7.

“It took me a few weeks to actually touch the ball. I think my first touch, I scored a try. I just loved it from there.”

“This is next level. It’s awesome”

Birth of a dream

It wasn’t until he was about 12 years old that he started to dream of perhaps playing professionally.

“I started watching State of Origin and thought that would be pretty cool to do something like that when I’m older,” he recalls.

In 2021, he knew he wanted it and sharpened his focus.

“It didn’t hit me until about the start of last year when I really wanted it … started doing my little extras, kicking at the park, extra gym sessions on Saturday mornings and Sundays. I always wanted to do it when I was young, but it only really hit me last year that I could give it a crack,” he explains.

It follows a few steps along the way including switching from Clontarf Beach State High School to Redcliffe State High School to join the rugby league program run by the Dolphins’ Hostplus Cup Head Coach Scott Murray.

He then worked hard to make the Dolphins’ Colts side.

“I didn’t get a run at the start of the year, so I went back to Brighton and played there for the first half of the year and at the end of the season went up to Colts. We had a good run, made the semis and just fell short to Wynnum,” he says.

Circumstance has given him an opportunity to play in the Hostplus Cup (Queensland Cup) side this year – with Redcliffe Dolphins captain and half-back Cameron Cullen out due to injury.

“I didn’t expect it. My goal for this year was to play QCup obviously – just one or two games. Then I got my first crack in round six. I’ve already played four games and we’ve still got a few games left. I didn’t see it coming and I’m grateful,” he says.

“I’ve loved it. I love playing with the big fellas. It’s a real test, that’s for sure.”

His greatest test is to come, when he starts his train and trial contract with the Dolphins’ NRL squad later this year ahead of the 2023 season.

It will give Hunter the opportunity to work on his game full time and is timed perfectly with the end of his panel beating apprenticeship at Clontarf’s R and R Refinish.

Name etched in history

He will make history as the first player to have progressed from Redcliffe Dolphins’ juniors to the Dolphins’ NRL team.

“I thought it was a big thing just getting into (Queensland) Cup, to be honest, and having the preseason with them. This is next level. It’s pretty awesome,” Hunter says.

|“For him (Wayne Bennett) to even look at me, that’s pretty special. Looking back one year ago, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be where I am now.”|

So, what will he do to make the most of the opportunity and impress the coaches?

“I’ll probably do the same as I’m doing now. Just my little efforts, turning up whenever I can doing my little extras behind the scenes as well. One of my main focuses is … I eat what I want to eat, my diet, I could probably change that a bit to improve my performance,” he says.

It’s that work ethic that has impressed his current coach and former school coach Scott Murray.

“You could see he was a talented player, but he never made the big rep teams (back then). He always worked really hard. I’ve seen him practising his kicking and goal kicking on the fields by himself, giving himself that chance to get better, more confident and physically stronger,” Murray says.

For Hunter, his determination in the past year has been driven by the memory of someone special.

“I lost my grandad at the end of last year and so this year was for him. Whatever I did this year, was for him. It’s pretty big, pretty massive for me actually,” he says.

“I hope I’m doing him proud.”

What will he bring to the squad next year?

“Hopefully my kicking. It’s been one of my stronger points, I guess. My ball running. Just my energy around the boys, hopefully I can uplift their moods,” he says.

He’s also looking forward to learning from the coaching staff and experienced players.

For now though, he’s looking to this weekend’s Hostplus Cup game against the Blackhawks and playing well for his team.

“My goal is keep playing consistently, I want to keep winning and try to get a good run into the finals. I reckon both squads – our Colts and Cup – are pretty strong. We can definitely hold that top-four position in both comps. I reckon we can make a run into the Grand Final,” he says.

|“For me personally, just stay injury-free, keep my fitness up and keep doing what I’m doing.”|

While one day wearing a Maroons jersey would be a dream-come-true, he’s focused on taking the next step.

“I just want to focus on trying to get a run for Dolphins. That would be a massive goal, whenever it comes, if it comes, it would be pretty special. I want to earn my way into that top 30 over the year’s contract with the Dolphins. But that Maroons jersey would look good,” he says.

“This is next level. It’s awesome”

Genuine gratitude

The quietly spoken young gun is grateful for the opportunities he’s had so far and for the people who have supported him along the way.

“My dad (Steve). He’s been massive, my whole family has been, but he’s turned up to every game. He was there for my first game and my last game,” he says.

“All the coaches I’ve had, they’ve all helped me in certain ways, especially Scotty. He’s been really good for me. I’ve had him for the last three years, I had him in school (in Year 12). He’s given me a crack in Colts and now Cup, so he does believe in me.

“Just my whole family. The support I get is crazy, eh. I was sitting at my boss’s desk on Monday, telling him about it all and I got my phone out to look at my calendar and I left it on the table. This was an hour after it got announced and my phone was just blowing up. The boss (Robbie) said, ‘mate go sort that out, you can go home’.

“I’m so grateful for all the support I get.”

Read more Dolphins news

Dolphins V Blackhawks preview

The Redcliffe Dolphins’ Hostplus Cup side is on an eight-game winning streak as they head to Ayr today for their clash against the Townsville Blackhawks tomorrow. We chat to Head Coach Scott Murray about how they’ll make it nine wins in a row

Milford to reunite with Bennett

Anthony Milford will come home to be part of the Dolphins’ foundation NRL team. Here’s the details

Dolphins sign former junior for NRL

Young half Cody Hunter has the chance to etch himself into Dolphins’ folklore after being awarded a contract to join the Dolphins’ NRL squad later this year.

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