The problem with being St George Illawarra Dragons' main man

Great expectation: Ben Hunt (left) at Dragons training at WIN Stadium this week. Picture: Robert Peet
Great expectation: Ben Hunt (left) at Dragons training at WIN Stadium this week. Picture: Robert Peet

Welcome to Wollongong, Ben.

Good to have you on board. Just a cautionary word if I may, before we move into the NRL season ahead.

You see, as much as you’re used to expectation in Brisbane, the definition of it is a little different down here.

Because as much as the Broncos are experiencing their biggest premiership drought in the club’s history, St George Illawarra do pressure, failure, heartache better than most.

It wasn’t meant to be this way these days. 

They fixed it all in 2010, when you’re old teammate Darius Boyd won the Clive Churchill Medal and the understated Ben Hornby led a premiership crusade.

But, you see, he wasn’t quite the marquee type, Hornby. 

His legacy is all quiet determination, as you’re no doubt aware, a kind of low-key version of the great Darren Lockyer.

Unfortunately last season’s final-round disaster – and the club’s struggles in general since Wayne Bennett left town –has resulted in the funk of disappointment returning. 

So while there’s plenty of faith in your ability – to steer the team around in combination with Gareth Widdop, which has the potential to be the club’s best ever NRL-era halves duo – it’s the expectation that creeps up on you.

Just ask Trent Barrett. 

When Barrett left in 2006, after losing consecutive preliminary finals, the Dragons went on to use seven different halves combinations the following year. 

Seven. That’s almost a different one every three games.

Remember Richie Williams?

We can all laugh about it now, but Braith Anasta struggled to see the funny side at the time. 

So the post-Barrett era was a treacherous one for the Dragons, especially after Mark Gasnier's much-hyped move into the No.6 jersey was ruined by a pectoral tear.

Of course, Hornby and Jamie Soward righted all those NRL-era wrongs, but then the Dragons have never really recovered since.

It’s a topic this column has spent many words discussing since 2010.

So we know you experienced your own disappointment in the 2015 grand final, but maybe it’s the Broncos influence we need down here. After all, it worked with Bennett and Boyd. 

As much as you’re here for the next six years, it’s not just about you. 

The Dragons have won a premiership more recently than the Broncos and yet the default cultural position is stuck at the failure end of the scale. 

Round 26 against the Bulldogs last year the most recent example.

As much as you’ll deflect and dismiss it inside the club ‘bubble’ at WIN Stadium, there’s already a growing impatience for success, even as you were unpacking your bags.