Ben Hunt’s move to Wollongong has Red V fans excited ahead of this season, but the halfback’s recruitment may not pay the dividends Dragon’s supporters are hoping for.
St. George Illawarra announced Hunt’s recruitment over twelve months ago now, snaring the World Cup-winning half on a reported five-year, $6 million deal, making him one of the NRL’s highest paid players.
The club has struggled to fill the number seven jersey since Ben Hornby’s retirement at the end of 2012, paying ‘overs’ to ensnare a high profile name.
But is Hunt the type of player that the Dragons need to reignite them?
When you consider Hunt’s style of play, he’s a running half. Just as Widdop is a running five-eighth. In both cases, the players make up for a lack of organisation skills with their ability to play off-the-cuff and read the opposition.
During his time at Melbourne, Widdop was allowed to play a free, running-based style of attack, while Cooper Cronk organised the attack.
With a rookie at the back in the form of Matt Dufty and Cameron McInnes still learning his trade at hooker, the organizing comes down to Hunt and Widdop.
But can two running halves really form a game-winning combination?
Widdop was undoubtedly one of the form player’s in the competition early last year, but his form certainly wavered throughout the season.
The combination made their first appearance side by side in St. George Illawarra’s narrow victory over Hull FC, but neither half managed to take the game by the horns in their time on the pitch.
Instead, it was six-game rookie custodian Matt Dufty that shone the brightest, running for 200m with just 10 runs, breaking the line three times in a Man of the Match performance.
While Dufty is certain to shine in his first full season in the top grade, a man with only half a dozen NRL games can’t carry a team for an entire year.
If the Dragons are to return to the finals in 2018, then it’s Widdop and Hunt who have to do the heavy lifting.
Similarly to Canterbury last year, the Dragons have a phenomenally strong, yet skilful forward pack, that repeatedly managed to get the side into the opposition red zone.
Their problem wasn’t getting down that end of the field, the problem was converting the field position into points.
The Dragons have the pack to dominate the majority of the team’s in the NRL when it comes to physicality, but Widdop and Hunt need to find their organisational mojo if the team is to win more games than they lose.
Fans of the Red V will have one last taste of the budding combination in this weekend’s annual Charity Shield clash with South Sydney before they start their season against Brisbane on March 8.