Million-dollar Dragons signing Ben Hunt is settling in nicely. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Million-dollar Dragons signing Ben Hunt is settling in nicely. Picture: Dylan Robinson

In the Hunt to find a magnificent seven

THERE'S been Lachlan Russell, Chris Sheppard and Keiran Kerr. For so long St George Illawarra's No.7 jersey has been the side's Achilles Heel. Even the most-capped halfback since 1999 was a makeshift one in skipper Ben Hornby.

Outside Hornby's 160 games at halfback for the Dragons only Mat Head and Benji Marshall have managed to chalk up more than 50 games. Russell and Sheppard headline a list of one-game wonders in the role which also includes the likes of Chase Stanley, Albert Torrens and even Jack De Belin.

The Dragons have used 25 halfbacks in 18 years including Trent Barrett, Jason Hooper, Willie Peters and Brett Firman but the arrival of Ben Hunt on the club's first million-dollar-a-season contract is expected to give the club the stability it has long craved.

Million-dollar Dragon Ben Hunt is settling in nicely. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Million-dollar Dragon Ben Hunt is settling in nicely. Picture: Dylan Robinson

Hunt, 27, is under no illusions about the lofty expectations which are placed on his shoulders.

"The Dragons wanted me to come here to be a dominate half," Hunt said. "I want to play a good consistent year the whole way through. At times during my career I've been a bit patchy and not playing consistent football.

"I want to play some more rep footy. That's a big goal for me. We've got a team here to make the finals and play well in the finals. That's where we need to be headed. They just missed out on the finals last year and we've got a better team now."

Hunt's arrival is certain to lift the pressure from Gareth Widdop's shoulders. The Dragons have been unable to find a regular partner for Widdop in the halves since the skipper's arrival from Melbourne in 2014. He and Marshall failed to jell while last season he starred despite essentially carrying the fortunes of the Dragons attack on his own.

A very sorry saga for St George-Illawarra.
A very sorry saga for St George-Illawarra.

"He had a lot of work on his shoulders last year and played excellent," Hunt said. "I need to take some of the load off him so we can attack both sides of the field.

"He is one of the best halves in the competition. I've got to come here and play my game and compliment him as well. That's what I need to work on.

"You spend time together but more so at training we need to do a lot of repetition to make sure we know how each other plays."

Hunt had a rocky road before arriving at the Dragons this year. He was axed to Queensland Cup but shortly after found himself thriving into dummy half for the Broncos before going on to make his Origin debut and reclaim a Kangaroos jersey.

"It was a strange year," Hunt said. "Playing that rep footy puts a spring in your step and makes you feel good about your footy. It gets me excited about this year.

Even rugged forward Jack de Belin has a run in the No.7. Picture: Brett Costello
Even rugged forward Jack de Belin has a run in the No.7. Picture: Brett Costello

"I got dropped after we'd just got badly beaten in New Zealand. I knew I wasn't playing great football but I knew I was coming back from my hamstring injury and I wasn't feeling my best. Once I got a bit of footy under my belt I knew I would be right to go again."

Hunt is adjusting to life away from Brisbane for the first time. He has moved into the Sutherland Shire and has joined the regular Sydneysiders car pool to training in Wollongong with Jason Nightingale and Tyson Frizell.

"I was nervous and excited," Hunt said. "I felt like it was my first day of school. I was excited but I didn't know what to expect. I barely knew anyone.

"Sydney is a little bit different, a little crazier. Driving around is busier. I'm enjoying it. Living in the Cronulla area and near the beach, it's full of nice cafes."

The Dragons will not have to wait long to see their marquee signing with Hunt hoping to line up against Hull in their opening trial on February 17.

"I've told Mary (coach Paul McGregor) I want to play as much as I can," Hunt said. "Even if it's not with Gareth I want to play so I get to know what the rest of the team is doing."



Why Bundy's small businesses are losing faith in Qld economy

premium_icon Why Bundy's small businesses are losing faith in Qld economy

Lack of confidence in economy calls for small business incentives

Local Partners