Ben Hunt has officially had enough of St George-Illawarra’s ineptitude. And who can blame him.
After six tumultuous seasons with the ‘Red V’, Hunt wants out and it has instantly started a war between the hooker-half and the front office of the Dragons, with both sides set to hold firm on their stances.
Everything that could have gone wrong for the Dragons in the past few weeks has; a coach sacked, a major sponsor walking out the door and now their leader saying enough is enough.
While many will argue the club’s been on a downhill trajectory for some time, it’s indisputable that right now there’s a dramatic domino effect compounding the St George-Illawarra’s issues right now.
The final straw for Ben Hunt at the Dragons
The writing was on the wall once Griffin was shown the door. Ben Hunt vocally supported ‘Hook’ and reportedly even requested a ‘Griffin insurance’ clause in his contract back in October 2022; if Griffin left, he would have the option to exit as well. But Hunt ultimately signed a contract with no such coaching clause, according to a number of League journalists.
Even still, Hunt staunchly stood by his former coach up to the point Griffin was relieved of his duties. And then he was made to front the media, acting as the Red V’s spokesperson for a decision he quite obviously disagreed with. And that was seemingly the final straw.
Whether fans believe Griffin was the man for that job or not, there’s no doubting what their captain’s opinion of it all was.
Shane Flanagan, premiership-winning coach for the Cronulla Sharks back in 2016, has been appointed to take over at St George-Illawarra starting in 2024. But that hasn’t brought Hunt around.
An awkward situation awaits; once Origin is over for Hunt, the Dragons and their captain will face loud music.
Ultimately, the Dragons are going to have to except Ben Hunt’s demands of wanting a release. And it’s very rare halves of this quality become available. It’ll create a feeding frenzy — clubs will do all they can to land the services of the Queensland and Australian representative.
Several landing spots have emerged, with offers being tabled. So here are the clubs that are ‘in the Hunt’ for the star half’s services.
Potential landing spots for Ben Hunt
1. Gold Coast Titans
The Titans have emerged as favourites to land Ben Hunt and have reportedly already started to table offers around the $900,000 mark per year.
If the Dragons were to release Hunt before the end of the season, Gold Coast could fit him in their salary cap, considering St George-Illawarra’s already paid three quarters of his salary for this rugby league financial year – making Hunt’s cap hit for the rest of this season around $250,000.
The lure of bring Ben Hunt back to Queensland could be an advantage and the halfback position would no doubt be his, with Tanah Boyd having to make way.
2. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
In a close second, the Bulldogs are well and truly in the hunt for Ben with reports already circulating that the “powerbrokers” have met with him already.
The halves situation at Canterbury has been a revolving door the past few seasons. Matt Burton is a certainty every week, but his partner not so much.
Hunt’s experience and combination alongside Burton would be invaluable.
3. Canberra Raiders
With Jack Wighton breaking the collective hearts of the Australian capital back in April, announcing he would depart Canberra to join Souths at season’s end, a halves spot has opened up that Ben Hunt would perfectly fill.
He fits the mould of the type of player Ricky Stuart likes in his sides and with Wighton gone, there will be plenty of cap space.
Even before Hunt officially requested a release, the Raiders had been circling him. But the biggest question with Canberra is how they would use him this season, plus whether the Queenslander would opt to relocate anywhere colder and further south than Sydney.
4. Brisbane Broncos
The Broncos are a serious smokey in the race to secure Ben Hunt; there’s history, a new role and premiership capabilities all included in the pitch. And the club is now being run much more soundly than it was when Hunt left in 2017.
The halves situation in Brisbane seems secure, so Hunt would most likely have to agree to a hooker role — which astutely he does for Queensland.
The hooker-half has unfinished business in Brisbane, considering that infamous knock on in golden point of the 2015 Grand Final. Another shot a righting wrongs could be the last thing he has to achieve in his career.
5. Sydney Roosters
Whenever a star player is released or without a contract the Roosters are always brought up, and it’s no difference here considering Hunt is in the top 23 players in the NRL.
With so many star players currently at the club, it would puzzling to figure out how they could fit him within the salary cap.
The halves situation at the Roosters certainly adds to why there are links; both Luke Keary and Sam Walker’s futures at the club have hurdles.