He had earned comparisons with Brisbane great Allan Langer.
But by fulltime of the NRL grand final on Sunday, devastated Broncos No.7 Ben Hunt trudged off ANZ Stadium with a very different reputation to shake.
Hunt looked to have plenty in common with title-winning ex-captain Langer initially, after appearing to help steer Brisbane to their seventh premiership in the season decider against North Queensland.
However, someone forget to tell North Queensland.
Remarkably, the Cowboys pivot Michael Morgan’s inside ball set up winger Kyle Feldt’s try after the fulltime siren to lock up the scores at 16-16.
North Queensland hearts were broken when Johnathan Thurston hit the post with the sideline conversion attempt.
But it was Hunt who would be left in tears.
From the golden point kickoff, Hunt inexplicably knocked on and immediately dropped his head.
He then began sobbing.
But it was nothing compared to the pain inflicted by Thurston’s stunning 82rd-minute match-winning field goal moments later.
In just his second season as starting halfback, Hunt had made great strides to earn comparisons with little champion Langer.
However, if he does reach Langer’s status, he will have to learn from perhaps league’s harshest lesson.
It could have been so different for the poor No.7.
Brisbane five-eighth Anthony Milford shone on Sunday night by his side.
His silky touch in the No.6 jersey looked to have proved the difference before the Cowboys brought the 82,758 crowd to their feet after the fulltime siren.
Ex-Canberra fullback Milford was considered a bust at five-eighth for Brisbane at the start of the season, with former title-winning coach Phil Gould leading the criticism.
Gould reckoned Milford was “not mature enough” to hold the key role for Brisbane after a shattering 36-6 season-opening loss to South Sydney.
Well, it seems Milford has finally come of age.
The devastating 30-point loss in March must seem an eternity away for the quietly spoken Milford after finding his voice under coach Wayne Bennett’s watch.
Milford and Hunt had earned comparisons with Brisbane’s last great halves pairing of Langer and Kevin Walters.
But Milford looks set to make a name for himself, judging by the way he stood up on the biggest day of his career, albeit in just his third season.
The 21-year-old might be a man of few words but he made a big statement at ANZ Stadium.
Milford was at his predictably sparkling best in attack, latching onto a clever Adam Blair offload to help winger Corey Oates complete a remarkable 90m effort and score in just the seventh minute.
But it was his defensive spark that helped Brisbane stay in the hunt for their first title since 2006, the club’s longest premiership drought.
Not once but twice Milford pulled off a telling one-on-one strip to defy a surging Cowboys.
In the end, he finished with 199 metres and two line breaks in a stunning performance only soured by North Queensland’s late heroics – and, unfortunately, Hunt’s gutwrenching gaffe.