AAP Rugby

NRL’s Hunt told to quit social media

By AAP Newswire

Quit social media - and welcome pressure.

That is leading sports psychologist Jeff Bond's advice to Ben Hunt as the maligned St George Illawarra halfback prepares for arguably the biggest challenge of an already difficult NRL season.

In the first year of a $6 million deal, Hunt had been the scapegoat of the Dragons' late season fadeout and copped vile social media criticism that got so bad his wife publicly hit out at the "despicable bullying".

He sought out professional help before appearing to silence his critics in the Dragons' 48-18 rout of his former club Brisbane in last week's elimination final.

However, even more pressure has piled on Hunt before Saturday night's semi-final against South Sydney with the halfback now expected to spark the Dragons in the absence of skipper Gareth Widdop (shoulder).

Bond - who has worked with AFL and NRL clubs - said his first tip to Hunt would be simple.

"My advice always to my clients has been get off social media. All you are doing is opening yourself up," he told AAP.

"And why would you bother?

"You've got to be your own judge. Not Joe Blow down the road with a pint in his hand who thinks you're an idiot then jumps on social media - it's pretty ridiculous really."

But Bond admits a social media ban would be easier said than done, especially at a professional football club.

"It's not just athletes. Club administrators get caught up in it too," he said.

"I have worked at an AFL club where even at the highest level of the club they were just paranoid about social media, what the fans were saying.

"I thought to myself 'goodness me, you employ quality people to work with at the club, don't let outside disruptions tell you what is good or bad'."

Bond's other advice to Hunt was to be like Johnathan Thurston and make pressure your friend if he wanted to step up as a big game playmaker.

"The Johnathan Thurstons of the world, they grew into those roles. They learned strategies for not only coping in high pressure situations but to thrive in them," he said.

"It might look hellish watching from the sidelines but this is their workplace and they get paid handsomely for it.

"Coping with pressure is part of the deal."

Bond applauded Hunt for seeking professional help but urged the playmaker to stay focused on his coping strategies against the Rabbitohs without Widdop otherwise his good work could come undone.

"I can see how he has improved his confidence and taken a load off his shoulders (with professional help) but the important question is can he sustain that?" Bond said.

"Can he keep himself from falling into that trap again because it (social media) is all around us."