Hunt’s our halfback not hooker: Dragons

Ben Hunt is still St George Illawarra’s first choice halfback next year despite his surprise success as Brisbane hooker.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor quickly dismissed the notion that he may consider Hunt for the No.9 jersey next year before his team come up again their $6 million man in Friday night’s NRL clash at Suncorp Stadium.

Hunt earned a lucrative five-year Dragons deal from 2018 as a halfback but will line up against his future club as Brisbane’s bench X-factor after overcoming an arm complaint.

Hunt’s introduction off the interchange as hooker after 20 minutes has proved a masterstroke for Brisbane who have cruised into the top two by piling on 86 points in two convincing wins since regular rake Andrew McCullough’s season-ending knee injury.

Ex-Test hooker Danny Buderus is already convinced that Hunt is a better hooker than halfback.

Even Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett talked up Hunt’s options at the Dragons.

“He’s a talented footballer. You can put him in at five-eighth, hooker, fullback, in the centres – he will handle all those positions,” Bennett said.

“He has been a tremendous player for this club. Now he has to adjust to another team but he has the ability to do it.”

But McGregor was not interested in Hunt as hooker ahead of the ninth-placed Dragons’ crunch clash.

He had bigger problems.

McGregor revealed he had lost four players to illness and injury on Thursday but would not name them.

The Dragons must also defeat Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium for the first time since 2009 to keep alive their top eight finals hopes.

“I have already got my hooker,” McGregor said of considering Hunt at No.9.

“He has done what has been needed for the team (playing hooker). They have lost a quality player in McCullough, but he has come on and really held his own.

“I looked at him as a player who could take the club in a new direction (at No.7) – I haven’t changed my opinion.

“He is on the top end of the halfbacks going around.”

Asked about facing the future Dragon, McGregor said: “It’s just another jumper at the Broncos, we have got to stop him.”

Hunt suffered a wrist complaint when a wrestling drill went awry on Tuesday but received the all clear after training strongly at the captain’s run.

Hunt’s arrival couldn’t come soon enough for McGregor who lost two players to illness and another two were injured at training in Brisbane on Thursday.

McGregor was thankful of bringing a 21-strong squad to Brisbane on Wednesday.

“It was an eventful morning,” McGregor said.

The Dragons got their top-eight campaign back on track with last round’s defeat of Gold Coast.

“We have put ourselves in this position by losing a couple of games that we shouldn’t have,” McGregor said.

“But that’s gone now. We have to win two of our last three.”

STATS THAT MATTER

– The Dragons have lost 13 of their last 15 games against the Broncos

– The Dragons have lost their last nine games at Suncorp Stadium

– The Broncos’ second half attack is the NRL’s best, scoring 284 points at an average of 13.5 per game

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