SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 17: Ben Hunt of the Dragons looks on during the NRL trial match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and Hull at ANZ Stadium on February 17, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

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.

Ben Hunt had the opposite with his former side. Anthony Milford runs the ball even more than Hunt, but their fullback Darius Boyd is one of the best organizing fullbacks in the competition.

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.

SEE ALSO:  Origin Watch: New South Wales - Possible Debutants

But can two running halves really form a game-winning combination?

Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye, two halves severely lacking organisational skills, combined at the scrum base for Canterbury last year. A combination resulting in an 11th placed finish.

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.

SEE ALSO:  Why as a Rooster, I want the club to relocate

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.


  1. Watched parra do same thing for years.Paying overs for players just cause they could with no real plans of what there doing.Paying that money was insane for Hunt and that’s saying something coming from a parra supporter

  2. We havent had a decent halfback for ages.
    Just like eels havent PARRAMATT,.
    Hopefully a great year ahead for the RED V

  3. Don’t think the issue with these two is the combination, but rather if Hunt can step up our kicking game.

    Last year, Widdop never had a halfback that could alleviate the load from him, the kicking from the number was absolutely woeful. (looking at you Mccrone)

    Hopefully with Hunt he can add another aspect to our kick options on 4th and 5th tackle.

    IIRC he made some nice kicks in the trial against Hull right? I didn’t watch the game at all.

  4. It wasn’t overly evident at the end of last season, but I was ultimately, quite happy to see the back of Hunt.

    He just does not have a very long kick. I was tired of watching the Broncos lose 20m of territory every set because of his poor kicking distance. They already don’t have a particularly robust forward pack – so watching them constantly defending was getting extremely tiresome.

    Hopefully, Widdop will do most of the long kicking for the dragons.

    Both the Dragons and Broncos have the same problem now – they have two running halves. I don’t really rate any team as being contenders when they have no structure half. I can’t see Milford becoming a game manager.

  5. The old boring “Dragons paying overs” line, but no other clubs else seems to….. time to give it a rest.

    E.G. Are the Bulldogs paying overs for Foran??? Anything over $100k is overs on his 2017 form.

    • Its only overs compared to what the Rooster, Broncos or Storm would pay. Because players practically pay them for the opportunity to play at their clubs.

    • Wazza i did say i thought they paid overs for Hunt but i did say Parra been doin it for yearsAs for Foran i think half way into the season ppl will be saying how well his playing and his back to his best.Be careful walking around with so many chips on your shoulder as theres seagulls everywhere

  6. Talk is cheap, ffs let’s just wait and see how it pans out. He’ll be a massive improvement over McCrone so that’s already a bonus,

    BTW which great organising half-back was out there they could have bought. Maybe we should of gone for Pearce!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • “He’ll be a massive improvement over McCrone so that’s already a bonus”

      Spot on, twas hard to watch McCrone out there at times last year.

  7. Ok Daffy im wrong.So Saints didnt pay overs.He was a bargain.Much prefer Hunt than maybe Cronk or Pearce or Maloney……seagull just swoped

    • WTF, I never responded to anything you said and never said they didn’t pay overs. As though they had a chance in hell of getting Cronk, who at the time said he was retiring and Maloney was also a late change and again would have never come to dragons. Pearce, well stuff that for a joke.

  8. Surely the real reason Saints will suffer is their inability to stick to Mary’s game plan throughout games and especially tapering off towards end of season (Round 26! anyone? Anything could happen with the cattle Saints will put on the park as that pack could well lay a foundation that two running players will eat up. Yet to see how it plays out as trials are terrible guides of true form and/or patterns of play.

    • Usually premiership form is inversely proportional to trial form. Dragons were pitiful in last years trials and look how well they started the regular season, while the form trial teams were total duds.

Comments are closed.