SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 15: Ben Hunt (L) of the Dragons celebrates with Zac Lomax (R) after scoring a try during the NRL Semi Final match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the St George Illawarra Dragons at ANZ Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The St George Illawarra Dragons have officially started contract talks with Ben Hunt, with an offer that would keep their star halfback in the Red V until his mid-30s.

Though the impending talks were originally revealed weeks ago when Hunt spoke out in defence of under-pressure Dragons coach Anthony Griffin, club boss Ryan Webb confirmed to The Daily Telegraph that negotiations have begun.

“We’ve started the process,” Webb said.

“We’re very hopeful we can keep Ben at the club long-term. He’s an important person on the field and has a tremendous impact off it.”

Provided both parties are happy with the talks, it’s believed a new deal could be announced within a month.

The playmaker arrived at the Dragons in 2018 on the richest deal in Dragons history, and also took up a sixth-year option. He’s currently in some of the best form of his career, leading the Dally M count when it went behind closed doors and likely still leading after more impressive performances in clubland.

Hunt had originally revealed that while he was happy at the Dragons, he was still open to the idea of a return to his home state of Queensland to see out his playing days.

“I can definitely see myself finishing (at the Dragons),” Hunt told NewsCorp.

“I’m enjoying myself at the club, I’m really enjoying being coached by (Griffin) and there’s a good bunch of fellas there. The club is heading in the right direction, we’ll have to wait and see.”

It’s believed the club are also attempting to lock up Hunt’s young halves partner Talatau Amone on a new deal, despite recent interest from the Dolphins.

Though the Dragons have secured the services of Hunt’s former Broncos teammate Andrew McCullough until the end of 2023, it’s believed they may enter the market for a hooker as well – with reports suggesting their interest in Roosters rake Sam Verrills as well as Tigers pair Jake Simpkin and Jacob Liddle.

The 2023 NRL Season is just around the corner and the Zero Tackle Season Guide is back! Get everything you need, from team lists, fixtures, statistics and a profile on every single player in the competition in our 2023 NRL Season Guide. Available now!