Ben Hunt has started well for the Dragons.
Ben Hunt has started well for the Dragons.

More than just $1 million: What Hunt demanded from Dragons

IT wasn't all about the money.

Sure, $1 million plus a season was a lucrative and enticing offer but there was no Jerry Maguire moment when it came to contract negotiations with Ben Hunt.

A lot has been made of the large figure St George Illawarra are paying their marquee recruit but what you don't know is the lengthy and revealing conversations the club had with the halfback in the lead-up to securing his signature.

Dragons' Director of Rugby League Pathways Ian Millward revealed it took four meetings with Hunt - three of them in Brisbane - before the deal was done.

And the pitch was more detailed than most recruitment meetings.

Ben Hunt during training at WIN Stadium.
Ben Hunt during training at WIN Stadium.

While the former Brisbane No.7 had met all of Millward's conditions for signing a playmaker, the 27-year-old had four critical questions he needed answers to.

"Ben had criteria when he came on board with us too. It wasn't all about our criteria," Millward said.

"Our criteria internally was, we wanted a halfback who'd played 100 plus NRL games, we wanted a halfback who had played either Origin or who had played in a grand final, we wanted a halfback whose personality was flat lined a lot, it wasn't spiked up and down.

"There was a lot of traits we were looking for and then when we sat down with Ben he had a lot of criteria too.

"He wanted to know who was going to be the right second rower, what style we were going to play, did we have any halfbacks on our coaching staff that could continue to advance his game and help him with feedback.

"He wanted to know the strength of our forwards. That was a real big thing criteria with Ben.

Ben Hunt gets a kick away.
Ben Hunt gets a kick away.

"We had to really go into some detail because Ben wasn't up to date with how good (Jack) De Belin was, how Tariq (Sims) was going and some of our younger forwards coming through and Cameron McInnes as a hooker he had to gain a rapport with so there was a little bit of trust he had to take in with us."

Millward was impressed by Hunt's line of questioning.

Rather than accept the dollar figure like many other players would have, he was invested and since arriving at the joint venture, his passion has only intensified.

"That really impressed you. It wasn't just 'oh yeah, I've listened to you and might move on'," he said.

 

"Obviously the biggest thing that came through our pre-season, is he was able to interact really quickly with guys. He's a person that's really level headed but not spiking at times, some days he's up and some days he's done. His personality is very good.

"The players appreciated him when we did a lot of opposed at training early in the pre-season.

"His kicking game, the way he can build pressure and the way he kept his composure through a lot of the in-house training. He's been able to transfer that to a game.

"He's been a person that the other players are really enjoying playing with and they appreciate what he's brought and the interaction with his spine has been really well. They have a real good rapport early."

Ben Hunt is congratulated by Tyson Frizell.
Ben Hunt is congratulated by Tyson Frizell.

While seeking detail, the depth of questioning on Hunt's end isn't uncommon for a player of his ilk.

As a Test and Queensland Origin representative, Millward said Hunt's at a stage of his career where he's chasing success.

With 22 of their top 30 signed on for 2019, the Dragons have stability and security within their squad and most notably, their key positions.

"If you're talking to marquees, they do usually have options," Millward said of talks with Hunt.

"You've got to pitch. You're not just turning up saying we've got a good team, there's some money. Marquee players want to be surrounded with people that are going to give them longevity and also keep improving their game and keep improving their performance.

 

Ben Hunt in action for Dragons. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Ben Hunt in action for Dragons. Picture: Phil Hillyard

"A younger guy, you're trying to explain his pathway, where he's seen in the organisation, is there a succession plan for him moving forward?

"It's different to that player who's the middle of the road and looking for opportunity, who has been dogged by injuries and obviously the coach has a big effect on that too. When he sits down with the player, especially a marquee, he's got to sell his philosophies and the culture he's going to bring to the club and where that player fits in.

"It's not just about picking a player up and putting a figure on the table. There are players who'll sign for a little bit less at one club because they see that fit and that synergy and the coach and culture fits."



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