Ryan Webb, the Dragons‘ chief executive, believes that the key to retaining Ben Hunt at the club lies in proving that newly appointed coach Shane Flanagan can quickly transform St George Illawarra into a finals contender. Despite Hunt expressing on Tuesday that he is still considering his future at the club, the Dragons have given Flanagan permission to bring in his own support staff when he takes charge in 2024. Flanagan has already informed Hunt that he wants him to be the team’s halfback, and Webb is confident that Hunt won’t leave the club, stating, “Ben just wants to see us successful and how we can turn things around – and be successful sooner rather than later.”
While the Bulldogs and Titans are ready to make a move if Hunt seeks a release from his contract, Webb believes that Hunt’s focus is on achieving success with the Dragons. Hunt has a strong relationship with former coach Anthony Griffin, who was recently sacked by the club, but is also determined to secure a premiership before his NRL career ends. The Titans have expressed interest in Hunt, and the Bulldogs have indicated that they are willing to engage in talks if he decides to leave the Dragons.
The appointment of Flanagan, who is returning to NRL head coaching after Jason Ryles rejected a four-year offer to take over the Dragons, may convince Hunt that the club can quickly become a finals contender once again.
Hunt expressed his excitement about the appointment, acknowledging that an experienced coach was needed to run the club. He also stated that he had yet to make a decision about his future and wanted to have discussions with Flanagan and the staff before making any commitments.
The paperwork for Flanagan’s three-year deal was finalized on Thursday, and he will finish the season as an assistant to Anthony Seibold at the Sea Eagles. The Dragons are supportive of Flanagan bringing his own staff to the club, but interim head coach Ryan Carr is likely to stay on after impressing the club’s hierarchy. Webb praised Carr for his great work and expressed hope that he would find a way to work alongside Flanagan. Webb believes that Flanagan’s knowledge and experience make him the right candidate for the job at this time, especially considering the talented squad and promising juniors within the club.