Wantaway Dragon Ben Hunt DEFENDS flying to Brisbane to shoot a beer commercial hours after his side was pumped by the Sharks – but will still ask for another release after Origin III
- Hunt denied early release from Dragons contract
- Still wants to leave embattled joint merger club
- Will wait until after Origin III to request another release
Ben Hunt’s management has insisted they will hold off on further action regarding the release of the Dragons skipper until the conclusion of the State of Origin series – but it didn’t stop the veteran from flying to Queensland on Friday.
Hunt, 33, was in the Sunshine State filming a beer commercial and stated his playing future wasn’t on his mind.
‘I’m trying hard….me coming up here’s got nothing to do with anything like that,’ Hunt said amid rumours he was going to meet representatives from the Broncos.
‘I’ve committed to the Dragons for this year… ‘I’ve told my teammates that and we are pushing forward and going to try get some wins.’
It follow’s Thursday’s 52-16 hammering at the hands of the Sharks on Thursday, in what was one of Hunt’s poorer outings for the Red V.
Hunt has looked increasingly unhappy at the Dragons and has already requested a release from the club this year
Sharks players react during their 52-16 mauling at the hands of the Cronulla Sharks in their derby match on Thursday
He played like a man with plenty of his mind as his opposite Nicho Hynes ran riot in the derby in Sydney’s south at Shark Park.
After an initial unsuccessful attempt to secure his exit from the club last month, Hunt’s representatives will resume negotiations with St George-Illawarra officials following the Origin finale in Sydney on July 12.
The playmaker’s initial release request was turned down on June 26 after discussions between St George Illawarra board members and his management.
‘The club met with Ben and his management today, where he shared the concerns and frustrations that led to his recent request for a release from his contract,’ a club statement read.
Despite the Broncos expressing interest in signing him on a short-term contract to boost their chances of winning a premiership, Hunt informed the Dragons on Monday that he does not seek an immediate release from his current deal.
Incoming coach Shane Flanagan could have a war chest at his disposal if Hunt is allowed to leave the club for the 2024 season
However, anonymous sources familiar with the confidential talks have told the Sydney Morning Herald that Hunt’s management intends to reopen discussions within the next two weeks in an effort to secure his release for the 2024 season.
Hunt is reportedly not looking for an immediate departure to join the Broncos for the remainder of 2023.
Instead, he aims to be released from his contract to fulfill his desire to return to Queensland.
Although Hunt’s current contract runs until the end of 2025, the experienced halfback is rumoured to be in talks with the Titans, who are expected to sign him if his release request is granted.
The ongoing contract dispute is expected to cast a shadow over the Dragons’ season, which has taken a nosedive following heavy losses to the Warriors and Sharks, conceding a total of 100 points in the past two weeks.
Interim coach Ryan Carr attempted to quell speculation about the captain’s future by affirming his commitment until the end of the season.
Hunt is expected to ask for another release after the third and final State of Origin match in Sydney, but will not ask for an immediate release to the Broncos
While the star player’s uncertain future continues to dominate headlines, incoming coach Shane Flanagan has been actively assembling his support staff.
Andrew Gray and Dan Lawson have agreed to join the Dragons next year. Gray, who previously worked alongside Flanagan during the Sharks’ 2016 premiership win, will assume the role of physical performance manager.
Lawson, a State of Origin physiotherapist with experience under Flanagan, will also join the coaching staff.
Currently employed by the Titans, Lawson will transition to the Dragons in 2024, coinciding with Des Hasler taking over as head coach for the Titans following Justin Holbrook’s sacking.
Gray’s main focus will be improving the Dragons’ second-half performance, as both the Warriors and Sharks managed to exploit their fatigue and score numerous tries in recent matches.