Ben Hunt's telling admission amid NRL contract drama at Dragons

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
Ben Hunt is pictured playing for the Dragons in the NRL.
Ben Hunt says his preference would be to extend his NRL contract with the Dragons, but doubts remain amid reports of a rift within the club. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Ben Hunt's future with St George Illawarra has been a talking point for much of the NRL season, but the Dragons captain has made a telling admission as the regular season nears an end.

The 32-year-old will be free to speak with rival clubs about his 2024 contract from November 1, with the State of Origin halfback certain to be hot property.

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Speculation has swirled around Hunt's future amid reports of discontent within the club, rumours head coach Anthony Griffin attempted to put to be after last weekend's win over Wests Tigers.

Having played finals just once in his five years with the Dragons, Hunt has reportedly sought clarity over the future of Griffin, with the Dragons 11th on the ladder heading into the final round.

Nearing the end of a $1.2 million contract that has been worth every cent for the Dragons, Hunt and Griffin are understood to have a close relationship - something the Dragons will no doubt be mindful of as the halfback becomes a potential option for the rest of the league.

Despite this, Hunt went some way towards reassuring Dragons fans that his preference was to stay put when speaking to media after Sunday's narrow victory over the Tigers.

"Every day there seems to be something popping up," he said.

"I'll just wait until the season's over and I've only got one more week.

"We'll get it sorted out and we're working through it. I enjoy the club and I'm happy to stay."

Hunt will be 34 when his new contract kicks in, however there are few concerns that his form will drop off dramatically in that tme.

The Dragons insist their offers have been commensurate with his worth, although the knock-on effect of Hunt staying may result in highly rated playmaker Jayden Sullivan leaving the club.

Sullivan, 20, played hooker against the Tigers and there is a school of thought that he and Hunt may be best suited to switch roles in 2023.

Dragons topple lowly Tigers thanks to key error

The Wests Tigers are all but assured of finishing the 2022 season with their first wooden spoon after their last-minute 24-22 defeat to the Dragons.

Wests must beat eighth-placed Canberra at home to have a mathematical chance of avoiding last place.

But they must also hope the Titans lose to the Warriors in Auckland, with both matches lopsided enough for Wests to erase the Gold Coast's 75-point superior for-and-against record.

Since Michael Maguire's sacking, the Tigers have won just one game. Furthermore, 17 players who have played for them this season were unavailable to interim coach Brett Kimmorley on Sunday at CommBank Stadium.

The Tigers had the chance to secure just their fifth win of the year when they led 22-16 with five minutes to go on Sunday in an impressive response from last week's club record defeat to the Roosters.

But as has often been the case this season they were architects of their own downfall.

Dragons forward Jackson Ford went over untouched, with Zac Lomax adding the conversion to tie the game up late on.

Zac Lomax is embraced by Dragons teammates after a crucial try against the Wests Tigers.
The Dragons produced a stunning come from behind victory against the Tigers thanks to key errors late in the second half from the hosts. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Then, as he attacked down the right Lomax was hit by an Asu Kepaoa shoulder charge.

Kepaoa was sinbinned and Lomax slotted the penalty goal with ease.

It should have been a lot more straightforward for the Tigers, especially considering the Dragons lost Jack Bird and Cody Ramsey to the sinbin after their teammate Jaydn Su'A had opened the scoring.

Rookie Tom Freebairn grabbed a double and Fa'amanu Brown scored to put the Tigers in the box seat before half-time.

The Dragons found their way back into the game with tries to Tatau Moga and Lomax, only for a weaving run from Jock Madden to put the Tigers ahead.

Then an error from Tigers rookie Junior Pauga - making a play at a Dragons dropout that wasn't going the requisite 10 metres - gave the Red V a piggyback.

The Dragons went up the other end with Ford on hand to waltz over.

Lomax added the conversion, before the vital penalty for the Dragons' second win in six games.

"I was really happy with our second half and the way we grabbed onto the game and got there in the end," said Dragons coach Anthony Griffin.

"The other side played with a lot of energy and they got two tries in front of us. The boys just kept coming and we did enough in the end and they worked for what they got.

"Next week (against Brisbane) is about finishing with a standard we're happy with."

With AAP

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