Ben Hunt in staggering contract development at Dragons amid ugly Zac Lomax situation

Hunt made it abundantly clear he wanted out of the Dragons in 2023.

St George Illawarra coach Shane Flanagan says captain Ben Hunt has not only backflipped on his desire to leave, but could even extend with the Dragons for another season. It comes after another tumultuous week at the NRL club that saw the Dragons and wantaway winger Zac Lomax agree to part ways at the end of 2024, mutually agreeing to terminate the final two years of his deal with the club.

Hunt went through his own contract dramas with the Red V in 2023 and came under fire for requesting a release so he could move back to Queensland to be closer to his family. Hunt was criticised for revealing the Dragons were not his "first choice" and that he would happily join any of the Queensland clubs.

Pictured left to right, Dragons captain Ben Hunt and his wife, with Zac Lomax on the right.
Ben Hunt wanted to leave the Dragons for family reasons but could now be ready to extend his contract with the NRL club, while Zac Lomax will leave at the end of the season. Pic: Getty

The Dragons ultimately denied the request from Hunt, who only signed a two-year extension eight months before he said he wanted out. Flanagan took over as Dragons coach this year and convinced his star halfback that his future lay with the Red V, and in an incredible development, says his skipper could even extend his current deal by a further year into 2026.

Flanagan made the bombshell revelation after hitting back at criticism around why the club denied the halfback's request to leave, but agreed to let Lomax go. “Ben wants to be here,” Flanagan said. “Ben will see out his contract and maybe go further so don’t confuse the issue of Ben and Zac. They are two different issues.”

League journalist Michael Carayannis told SEN Breakfast with Vossy and Brandy that while no formal contract talks between Hunt and the Dragons have begun, there is a growing sense the Maroons star will extend with the club. “It’s tracking that way at the moment,” Carayannis said. “No one has sat down with Ben Hunt or Ben Hunt hasn’t sat down with the Dragons and said ‘I want an extra 12 months’. It’s been intimated, but hasn’t progressed further than that.

“Flanagan was always confident that once he had time with Ben and showed him where they were heading... that he’d see out his contract and now there’s the potential for an extra 12 months.” The news will come as a relief to many Dragons fans after the drama surrounding Lomax this week.

Pictured left to right, Dragons players Ben Hunt and Zac Lomax.
The Dragons knocked back Ben Hunt's request to leave the club but have agreed to part ways with Zac Lomax. Pic: Getty

Shane Flanagan hits back after Billy Slater criticism

Flanagan was forced to respond to swipes from the likes of NRL legend Billy Slater, who accused the Dragons of "double standards" over the Lomax and Hunt sagas. "I remember when Ben Hunt asked for a release at the Dragons everyone was having a go at Ben Hunt and actually having a dig at his integrity ... but then Zac Lomax wants to do it and everyone's like, 'Ah, OK, we'll look at that if we can get a player in return'," Slater said on Nine's The Billy Slater Podcast.

"For the club to have double standards like that - it's got to work for both parties ... It's a little bit double standards when you're accepting to or you're open to releasing one sort of player ... but you're not going to look into a Ben Hunt situation. What works for one doesn't work for the other."

But on Thursday, Flanagan refuted suggestions the Dragons were interested in a player swap for Lomax and would consider letting him leave this year. He also bristled at suggestions the Lomax and Hunt contract situations were similar.

"There is no player swap going on,” Flanagan said. "Zac is here for the rest of the year, I don’t know where all of that has come from. We’ll just move on... and hopefully this is the last time we speak about it." When pressed on why the Dragons agreed to grant Lomax an early release from his contract, Flanagan was blunt. “We can’t have people who don’t want to be here,” he said. “That’s the main point.

"We’ve worked hard to turn him around, but it just hasn’t happened. We’ve got to move forward." Flanagan says despite Lomax's decision, the player and club have held constructive conversations and he's confident the winger will maintain his professionalism and keep putting in the sort of performances he has in the opening rounds.

“We’ve had a lot of good conversations around it. As you can see with his football, he’s happy to be here and he’s putting the effort in. That’s all we can ask,” Flanagan added. "Zac has made a decision that he wants to leave the club. The club has made a decision to let him go from the last two years. There’s a lot of conversations behind closed doors and we’ll keep them that way."