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Broncos coach Wayne Bennett and skipper Gorden Tallis have called on the NRL to protect young fullback Karmichael Hunt, who they believe is being unfairly targeted by high shot from opposition defenders.
Tallis claimed the gun 17-year-old was being ?bashed every week? after twice being left groggy from high tackles in Brisbane? 16-12 win over the Knights at EnergyAustralia Stadium.
International backrower Ben Kennedy and utility Kurt Gidley both avoided censure over their hits on Hunt, which come just one week after St George-Illawarra forward David Howell was suspended for three weeks for a late high shot on Hunt.
Tallis said protecting young players from illegal tactics should be on top of the league?s agenda.
Without mentioning names Tallis referred to Sydney Roosters coach Ricky Stuart?s claims of bias by officials against his prop Adrian Morley as an example of people in the game having their priorities out of kilter.
"You get one coach (Stuart) complaining about his player (Morley) being targeted for giving head highs and then on the other hand you have a young bloke who is 17 and each week he is hit around the head, and no one seems to take any action," Tallis said.
"You talk about protecting players . . . there is one player who runs a thin red line and his coach knows that he is very aggressive, and you have one bloke who is 17 who is getting bashed every week. I know who the game has to protect."
Bennett, who has raised the issue several times this season, said Hunt was a victim of his own courage, with the New Zealand-born star refusing to stay on the ground and give video referees the chance to intervene.
"I just can't believe his toughness. I think most of you missed it (Howell?s hit) last week, we certainly did, when he got hit from behind and the guy got three weeks for it," he said.
"He got up from that, after I saw it I couldn't believe we didn't notice it, but he just got up - he's so tough, it's a rare quality ... at that age."
Despite the attention from his opponents Hunt turned in another impressive display for Brisbane including scoring one of the tries of the year ? a 90m effort just after half-time in which star five-eighth Darren Lockyer handled three times.
A Brent Tate four-pointer four minutes later turned out to be the match-winner, with the home side denied two late tries by video referee Paul Simpkins after centre George Carmont had narrowed the margin with an intercept try midway with 20 minutes to play.
The win ended a six-year drought at Newcastle for the Broncos and while happy to get the two competition points, Bennett said his side should have ?gone on with it? after establishing a 16-6 lead early in the second stanza.
"The result was too tight. It shouldn't have happened that way," he said.
"We did all the hard work and we couldn't have done much better but we lost momentum after that intercept try. Tallis said the Broncos were better placed than last season for a shot at the finals, with the emergence of young guns Hunt, David Stagg and Neville Costigan - who were among Brisbane?s best in the cold, blustery conditions ? a key part of the equation.
"The young blokes are standing up. Each week when we pick one of them they always seem to play well," Tallis said.
"I mean David Stagg two weeks ago no one had really heard of him but he's come on and played outstanding.
"As long as our young blokes don't get brain explosions, we should be there at the end of the year.?