The NRL judiciary rendered the fiery forward, Corey Horsburgh, guilty of a shoulder charge during the week resulting in a four-match layoff. Despite the disappointment felt by the Canberra team, the verdict was more upsetting for Cronulla prop, Royce Hunt.
Fans might recall the intense altercation between the two robust players during round three. Hunt brandished Horsburgh as a “weak-gutted dog”, an iconic line borrowed from Raiders coach Ricky Stuart, in a claim that Horsburgh was seeking refuge behind his halfback amid rising tensions in GIO Stadium. Horsburgh hit back digitally, posting a meme of him cradling a baby photoshopped with Hunt’s face under the caption, “Really happy for my little boy watching Daddy score two tries”. The brimming animosity had all the ingredients for a captivating storyline to play out when the teams squared up for the closing round.
Anticipating Sunday’s encounter, an eager Hunt said last week, before Horsburgh’s judiciary hearing: “I still think what he did was a shit go. Heaps of people sent me his Instagram post. I was off Instagram at the time, but I had a laugh about it.” Adding, “He was getting back at me for the ‘weak-gutted dog’ comment. I’m actually happy he made Origin. But I still have a debt to settle with him.”
Expressing his fondness for settling old scores, Hunt added, “I’m happy to fight, I’m happy to throw them, but I’d be letting my team now. I’m sure a lot of people are looking forward to the fireworks, and me and ‘Big Red’ will put on a show.” Emphasising that he wouldn’t back down from a challenge, Hunt said, “I hope he comes flying out of the line. If he wants a challenge, we’ll lock horns and see who comes out on top.”
However, after Tuesday evening’s hearing, the anticipated rematch was off the cards. Hunt expressed his disappointment, but acknowledged that setbacks are part of the game. He went on to say, “We have to wait until next year to get our redemption game.”
In the spirit of healthy competition, Hunt called for more players to embrace these head-to-head confrontations on the field, “That’s just me”, he said. His objective on the field is simple – to make an impact and boost his team’s morale.
In the face of Horsburgh’s absence, the Raiders will without a doubt have Hunt in their crosshairs. Isolating him becomes a more interesting proposition with Horsburgh, a substantial loss to the team, and Josh Papalii, who’s nursing a biceps injury, unavailable to play. Hunt, having spent three years in Canberra and played in the World Cup with Papalii for Samoa, joked about the circumstances, alluding to Papalii’s fear of playing against him as the cause of his injury.
Refusing to engage in Hunt’s tit-for-tat comments, Raiders captain, Elliott Whitehead said his team would simply focus on their performance to secure a home final for their fans. However, Hunt, who possesses a knack for stirring the pot, is undeterred by the looming confrontation and says being the target may even improve his game.
Having overcome many challenges, the tattooed 28-year-old with a thunderous Harley Davidson has proven himself on and off the field. He acknowledges Cronulla Sharks coach, Craig Fitzgibbon’s instrumental role in his development over the past year. Despite facing injuries and initially feeling out of place in Fitzgibbon’s plans, Hunt finally found a footing at the club through relentless effort.
Although the highly anticipated duel between him and Horsburgh won’t be materialising at PointsBet Stadium come Sunday, Royce Hunt‘s presence alone still promises an exciting game for the spectators.