SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 28: Ben Hunt of the Dragons runs with the ball during the round 24 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the St George Illawarra Dragons at CommBank Stadium, on August 28, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

St George Illawarra Dragons captain Ben Hunt has confirmed he is committed to the Red V after returning to pre-season training ahead of schedule.

Hunt dropped a bombshell on the club in the middle of 2023, asking for a release from the remainder of his playing contract.

While that saga continued to play out through to the end of the season, Hunt was eventually told in no uncertain terms that he would be remaining with the club for at least 2024, and has since accepted reality.

The captain was reportedly chasing a return to Queensland, citing homesickness as the reason for departure, despite the fact he had only added a two-year extension to his time at the joint-venture at the end of 2022.

But speaking to 9 News this week, he said he was now committed to the club and wanted to get back into winning footy games.

"Yeah, I'm committed. I'm just getting on with life, and just want to go into next year and try to win some footy games," Hunt said.

"I have always enjoyed living down here and playing footy, and I'm just looking forward to keeping my head down and playing some footy again."

The Dragons have had a miserable run of things with Hunt at the club, playing just a single finals series since his arrival, and going through two head coaches with Paul McGregor, and then Anthony Griffin - who Hunt was extremely close with - both sacked.

That has led to Shane Flanagan joining the club for 2024 in his return to head coaching. The incoming boss, who takes over from interim boss Ryan Carr, is believed to be a big part of the force behind the club blocking Hunt's release request from the final two years of his deal.

Hunt revealed Flanagan, as well as the number of young players at the club, had been behind his early return to pre-season training.

"As soon as Flanno asked me, I was happy to do it. Knowing we have a really young squad with a couple of new guys coming in as well, I felt that I could come down and help out and I guess get a jump start on the new year," Hunt said.

Like other Kangaroos - and Pacific Cup or Bowl players - Hunt wasn't due to return to pre-season until the coming weeks, but like many others, has come back early as preparations for the 2024 season hit full swing.

The Dragons open their 2024 campaign away from home against the Gold Coast Titans.