NRL 2018: Standout performance a building block for Dragons halves

Ben Hunt of the Dragons intercepts and scores during the Round 1 NRL match between the St George-Illawarra Dragons and the Brisbane Broncos at UOW Jubilee Oval in Sydney, Thursday, March 8, 2018. (AAP Image/Craig Golding) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Ben Hunt of the Dragons intercepts and scores during the Round 1 NRL match between the St George-Illawarra Dragons and the Brisbane Broncos at UOW Jubilee Oval in Sydney, Thursday, March 8, 2018. (AAP Image/Craig Golding) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

AS the Dragons six-million-dollar man, you can only hope Ben Hunt footed the bill when he had breakfast with some former Broncos teammates on Thursday morning.

It was the least he could do given it would be a matter of hours until he came back to haunt his former club – with a bit of inside knowledge to boot.

“I knew the play they were running,” Hunt said of the 50th minute intercept that set up the 22-point victory.

“I went up to jam on [Anthony] Milford but I got there a bit early so I had a crack at the ball. It was pretty exciting.

“I always get pretty excited when I score a try but to get one for your new team is pretty nice.”

It was merely the exclamation point on a dominant first-up display from the 27-year-old who also laid on Tyson Frizell’s first-half try and linked seamlessly with Gareth Widdop.

With Hunt locked down for the next six seasons, and Widdop the next four, the red v faithful will be hoping the performance is merely a sign of things to come. It’s a hope Hunt shares. 

“[The combination] is coming along really well, I still think we've got a long way to go,” Hunt said. 

“He's a freak footballer Gareth, he knows the game so well, he keeps calling me to do different plays and I think we're combining pretty nice.

“I think we need to improve on that now. We were a bit shaky in attack at times we weren't as crisp as we'd like to be so I still think there's room for improvement.

“I know I'm here for a long time now, I've just got to focus on my job at the Dragons and not focus on anything else.”

If Hunt was relieved to get his first game for his new club out of the way, he had nothing on Broncos Matt Lodge who threw the wayward pass.

Lodge’s return from rugby league purgatory dragged plenty of scrutiny away from Hunt’s Dragons debut, something he certainly had no problem with.

“It probably wasn't as much media hype as I thought it was going to get. I can't complain about that,” he said.

“I had a bit going on in the off season with the World Cup and getting married and things like that. 

“Once preseason started everyone kept bringing [round one] up so then it started to drag on a bit like that after Christmas but it wasn’t too bad.

“I wouldn't say it's a big relief it just feels good to get the win and get it out of the way.”

With Cam McInnes at No. 9 and Matt Dufty at fullback, coach Paul McGregor is confident Thursday’s offering is merely a building block ahead of next week’s clash with Cronulla.

“I thought both our halves really dominated the game which is good,” McGregor said.

“Those two [Hunt and Widdop] are going to work well together. They’re going to be better as they play more footy. 

“If you look at Gareth and Ben, Ben’s a genuine [number] seven and Gareth’s a genuine six. Gareth’s bottomless talent and he likes to play instinctive footy whereas, when you wear the seven, you’ve got to execute a game plan and a kicking game.

“Ben likes to go to the game like Gareth so you’ve got two competitive players on the football field. I think they complement each other really well and that was just the start of something we can build over the year.”

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