Damien Cook in huge development at Dragons as Ben Hunt moves closer to NRL extension

The Dragons are reportedly set to offer South star Damien Cook a two-year deal from 2025.

The Dragons are reportedly set to capitalise on the Rabbitohs salary cap squeeze by offering Damien Cook a two-year deal from 2025. The Souths hooker pushed for a three-year extension at the Bunnies last year but was only handed a two-year contract. However, reports now suggest that he could depart just one season into his new NRL deal.

The Red V are in the market for a new No. 9 and recently held talks with Dolphins hooker Jeremy Marshall-King, but he ultimately decided to re-sign with the Dolphins. Roosters hooker Brandon Smith could also become an option for the Dragons with the Kiwi international on thin ice at the Tri Colours after being handed a breach notice earlier this month after failing to turn up to the Roosters' mid-season review.

The Dragons are reportedly set to offer Damien Cook a two-year deal from 2025 and extend Ben Hunt's stay at the Red V. Image: Getty
The Dragons are reportedly set to offer Damien Cook a two-year deal from 2025 and extend Ben Hunt's stay at the Red V. Image: Getty

But it is understood that at the top of Shane Flanagan's hooker wish list is Cook. While the St George Illawarra coach is happy with his current No.9 Jacob Liddle, he reportedly sees him as a perfect No.14 and is looking for another hooker to lead from the front.

Cook's contract next year is worth around $650,000, according to The SMH, and the Dragons will reportedly need the Rabbitohs to chip in a portion of his salary for next season. Souths officials earlier this month told Cook’s management that he would not be offered a contract beyond 2025 and that they wouldn't stand in his way if he sought a new contract at a rival club. The Bunnies recently re-signed young gun hooker Peter Mamouzelos until the end of 2027.

As well as eyeing off a new hooker, a top priority for Flanagan is locking down star halfback Ben Hunt on a new deal. Flanagan told The Daily Telegraph's Dean Ritchie that he was set to meet with Hunt and his wife Bridget in the next couple of weeks to finalise a one-year extension that will keep him at the Red V until the end of 2026.

In a remarkable turnaround, Hunt is no longer trying to get an early release to head to a Queensland-based club as he is now reportedly happy with the direction the club is heading under Flanagan's leadership.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 09: Ben Hunt and Shane Flanagan, head coach of the Dragons, speak after the round one NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and St George Illawarra Dragons at Cbus Super Stadium, on March 09, 2024, in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Ben Hunt is reportedly thrilled with the team's direction under Shane Flanagan's leadership.

The Dragons - who haven’t managed to finish above 10th since 2018 - are currently sitting ninth and are firmly in finals contention with Hunt a large reason for their recent success. The Dragons half's 22 try assists is currently the most in the NRL this season, five more than the second-best mark.

The arrival of Flanagan and the on-field improvement of the side has given reason for Hunt to have faith in the team's direction and to even consider potentially ending his NRL career with the Red V. And Ritchie told NRL360 that it’s been a remarkable change in outlook from Hunt.


"I didn’t think there was any way back for Ben Hunt when he was public and forceful about wanting that release I thought there was no way he could stay," Ritchie said. "I spoke to Shane Flanagan and he says there’s a trust factor now. They trust each other."