Former Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke has entered into a passionate argument with NRL reporter Phil Rothfield over Dragons captain Ben Hunt's contract saga that came to a tipping point on Monday. The Dragons made the extraordinary move on Monday to call a meeting where the board decided to deny Hunt the opportunity to return home to Queensland and link up with the Broncos.
The Maroons No.9 wanted out of the struggling Dragons outfit mid-season, which shows the depths into which the club has fallen in 2023. And Rothfield was adamant the club should let him go so they can start planning for the future.
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“You saw the scoreline on Friday, 48-18 (loss to the Warriors), you saw Ben Hunt at the press conference. He was broken, busted, completely nowhere to go,” Rothfield said on the Big Sports Breakfast. "Now I look at it this way, the Dragons we all know need a long-term, big picture rebuild. They need a complete reboot and it needs to start today."
Rothfield added: "What is the point of keeping Ben Hunt this year?" However, Clarke was not sold on the idea that it would help the club or the player. The Aussie cricket great said Hunt should see out the season to avoid the chaos that would have ensued in his wake.
"Would it not be (better) just to finish the season. No matter what, win, lose, draw, chaos continues ... would it not just be cleaner and the most respectful way for both parties? Even for the fans, pay that respect to the fans," Clarke said as the debate started. Clarke added that if he was the Dragons he would hold Hunt to his contract.
Phil Rothfield calls for Dragons to look at bigger picture
This prompted Rothfield to call for Clarke to look at the bigger picture with salary cap space opening up for incoming coach Shane Flanagan next year. Although Clarke didn't think there was anyone available for the Dragons to grab with his quality.
"Who can they get Buzz? Who are some of the players that we are saying is going to be a better buy or a better swap then Ben Hunt," Clarke added. But Rothfield reiterated that the long-term plan for the Dragons could be suited if they sold Hunt.
"I don’t think their fans want to have a good year next year, I think their fans would prefer to have a great long-term sustainable plan for the next decade and that’s what Flanagan’s got to do," Rothfield added.
Ben Hunt to remain at the Dragons
The Dragons had already formally denied a release request from Hunt earlier in the month and met with him again to discuss the matter in Wollongong on Monday morning. There, they confirmed Hunt would not be released from the final two-and-a-half years of the contract he signed last October.
After formal talks with Hunt and his management concluded on Monday morning, the Dragons were confident of mending the relationship with their captain. They will name him to play against local rivals Cronulla this weekend as they look to finally move on from a season of off-field unrest.
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