PREMIERSHIP-winning halfback Brent Sherwin reckons Ben Hunt will take St George Illawarra to an NRL title, if he can handle the intense pressure of being the club’s new marquee man.
On Monday afternoon, the Dragons announced the Hunt deal, starting in 2018, understood to be about $6 million over five years.
Sherwin, who played in the Illawarra Coal League for Helensburgh in 2011, knows the pressure of long-term investment, having signed a then groundbreaking five-year contract to stay at the Bulldogs and winning a premiership in 2004.
Now a truck driver in Sydney and working as an assistant coach to ex-Bulldogs teammate Brad Morrin at Moorebank, Sherwin has backed Hunt to lead the under-fire Dragons to premiership success.
“I really like Ben Hunt as a player,” he said.
“A contract like this puts a bit of pressure on him, there’s already expectation on him at Brisbane, but when you come to a club on a big deal, people expect you to perform. I think he can handle it.
“He takes on the line and he’s always asking questions of the (opposition) defence. When his kicking game is on, he’s on.
“They’ve lacked a little bit of direction and he can be the cool head they need to take control.”
It is believed Hunt also has an option to play a sixth season with the Dragons in his favour, when he’ll be turning 34.
Sherwin – released a year early from his contract in 2007, following a run of mixed form and injury – and Braith Anasta were the Dogs’ 2004 premiership halves duo, as Johnathan Thurston was squeezed out due to salary cap pressure.
With Josh Dugan expected to sign a new deal to stay in Wollongong and Tyson Frizell extending his contract until 2020, Hunt’s arrival at the end of year ramps up the pressure on captain Gareth Widdop.
Widdop is off-contract at the end of the year and came under fire last season, as the Dragons struggled to score points and missed out on the finals.
It is understood the Dragons are also keen to provide Albion Park junior Drew Hutchison another chance, after sustaining a pre-season ACL knee injury.
The start to the season is crucial for Paul McGregor, who is also coming off contract. Club legend Shaun Timmins remained adamant the Hunt deal won’t undermine their finals prospects this year.
“Ben will be a great buy for the club, but we’ve all got to remember he’s still a year away,” he said.
“There’s a chance there for someone to make their mark in the halves. The Dragons have one of the best forward packs in the competition and there’s no doubt they can be successful this year.”