Ben Hunt will finish his career at the Dragons – but what does it mean for everyone else?

Ben Hunt has officially inked a two-year extension with St George Illawarra, keeping him at the club until the end of 2025 and likely the end of his career.

The 32-year-old enjoyed a stellar campaign for the Red V, finishing in the top-three for the Dally M Medal count and helping Queensland to a shock State of Origin series win.

Hunt has since been included in Australia’s squad for the Rugby League World Cup, and took out the Dragons Player of the Year award earlier this week.

His extension with the club didn’t come easily however. Hunt knocked back numerous offers from the Dragons, and it looked as though he was headed for the open market on November 1st. 

St George Illawarra reportedly upped their price to $900,000 per year, which the captain eventually accepted just days before he was set to fly out to the UK for the RLWC. 

“It’s a pleasing day for my family and I,” Hunt said.

“I am very happy we were able to come to an agreement as I always wanted to stay with the Dragons.

“I am excited by the direction the club is headed and I’m very much looking forward to playing my part in the Dragons’ journey in the coming years.”

The decision from Hunt to remain in the Red V is a huge boost for the club, who missed out on the finals by two games this year and will be hungry for September footy in 2023.

Dragons general manager of football Ben Haran said the halfback would be vital to future success of the club. 

“Ben and his family are an integral part of the Dragons and to have him extend for a further two years demonstrates his commitment and desire to bring success to the club over the coming seasons,” he said.

“Ben’s on-field performances speak for themselves, while his leadership off the field and around the club will be crucial in the ongoing development of our NRL squad.

“Ben’s re-signing is one that all Red V members, partners and fans should be extremely excited about.”

On the surface, Hunt’s extension is a good thing. He’s one of the best players in the competition and is in the best form of his career.

But there are going to be a lot of question marks over some other players in the squad, as well as head coach Anthony Griffin. 

Jayden Sullivan

The man who will likely suffer the most from Hunt’s extension is young halfback Jayden Sullivan.

The 21-year-old has managed just 15 first grade appearances since his debut over two years ago, with very limited opportunities to play in his preferred No.7 role.

Sullivan is an immense talent that the Dragons clearly have long-term plans for, re-signing him until the end of 2025 and giving him chances at hooker and off the bench during the early stages of his career.

But the word on the street is Sullivan will now ask for a release following the news of Hunt’s new deal, with Canterbury the main club rumoured to be interested in acquiring his services. 

The Daily Telegraph are reporting that Sullivan officially requested a release on Thursday morning, but there is no word on whether or not the club will grant it. 

If he did stick around at the Dragons, Sullivan would likely have to settle for a bench spot, play hooker or hope that Hunt moves to the No.9 jumper and allows the young gun to move into the halves permanently.

Time will tell, but the Hunt extension is going to impact Jayden Sullivan more than anybody else at the club.

Anthony Griffin

A big part of the early negotiations between Hunt and St George came down to the coaching situation.

The skipper wanted certainty regarding Anthony Griffin and his role at the club, with the pair sharing a close relationship that stems back to Hunt’s early career at Brisbane.

‘Hook’ is only signed until the end of next year – the same time Hunt was initially off-contract – but the Dragons will need to start next year well if he is to remain coach long-term.

Hunt was seeking a clause in his contract – something the Red V wisely shut down – but the announcement of a new deal is a sign that the club will invest in Griffin for at least another year, and his chances of an extension will only be boosted by the halfback sticking around.

Andrew McCullough

Despite suggestions of retirement towards the end of 2022, experienced hooker Andrew McCullough is yet to announce any plans for his future and still remains signed with the Dragons for next year.

The 32-year-old has struggled to make an impact since joining St George, and the club have addressed the lack of quality at hooker by signing Jacob Liddle from the Tigers.

McCullough and Hunt share a close friendship, and the halfback has expressed his desire for him to continue his career in the Red V.

But the pressure from Liddle, Sullivan and young gun Connor Muhleisen could spell the end for McCullough after a storied 309-game career. 

Talatau Amone

If Sullivan is going to be negatively impacted by Hunt’s extension, Talatau Amone is going to be feeling the complete opposite.

The five-eighth enjoyed his first full year in the NRL alongside Hunt and reaped the rewards, finishing with six tries and 13 try assists as he cemented himself as the long-term No.6 for the Dragons.

Amone and Hunt built nicely on their combination, and a further two years playing alongside each other is only going to benefit the rising star the road.

Twenty-year-old Amone will play in the RLWC for Tonga, where he is likely to start in the halves, and looks set for a massive 2023 with the Dragons. 

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