Ben Hunt Photo: Getty Images
St George Illawarra have landed a massive coup in the rebuilding of the club, confirming Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt will join them for the 2018 NRL season on a five-year contract.
The Dragons announced the long-term deal - which is rumoured to be worth around $1 million a year - on Monday, less than six weeks out from the start of the new NRL season.
"We were looking for a really competent, world-class halfback," Dragons head of recruitment Ian Millward said.
"It was about signing someone who has been a regular halfback and who has played at the highest level and is competent at getting a team around."
Hunt has played 166 games for Brisbane since his debut in 2009, and enjoyed a breakout year at the Broncos in 2015 when he helped take them to a grand final.
Since then, his partnership with Anthony Milford has been one of the best in the competition, with Hunt alone setting up 52 tries and 50 linebreaks.
"We were looking for a player who has already played Test football," Milward said.
"He is viewed by his state Queensland and Kevvie Walters his coach as a long-term replacement for some of their superstars who are getting to the back-end of their careers."
Dragons fans will have to wait another year before Hunt's arrival though, with the 26-year-old to remain in Brisbane for the final year of his deal.
It means the Dragons will still likely have to call upon Josh McCrone in the No.7 jersey for this season to partner Gareth Widdop, with up-and-coming halfback Drew Hutchinson ruled out for the year with a knee injury.
Meanwhile Hunt will have to wait until round 24 to face his future club, with the Broncos and Dragons meeting just once this year in August, at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.
Official Dragons Statement
The St George Illawarra Dragons have announced the signing of halfback Ben Hunt, who will join the Club in 2018 on a five-year deal following today's completion of all official documentation.
The Australian Test representative, Hunt, 26, will join the Dragons from the Brisbane Broncos at the completion of the upcoming NRL season.
A former Dally M Under 20s Player of the Year, Hunt has played 166 NRL games to date since his 2009 debut.
Ben Hunt Photo: Getty Images
St George Illawarra Dragons Director of Rugby League Pathways Ian Millward said Hunt's signature was crucial for the Red V moving forward.
"We were looking for a really competent, world-class halfback. It was about signing someone who has been a regular halfback and who has played at the highest level," Millward said.
"Ben's also a good family man and quite composed as a person. The Red V fans should be over the moon."
Millward said however the club's immediate focus remains on the upcoming 2017 season.
"Ben's made a massive commitment to the Dragons but he also has a season to go with the Broncos," Millward said.
"It's important he has a great season with the Broncos, and it's important we have a great season with the personnel we currently have."
Millward said the Club remained focused on player retention across the board - from junior representative teams to the NRL.
"We're still very active internally as well," Millward said.
"I don't want to speculate on specific names at present because we're in negotiations but we are progressing well."
Why The Dragons Signed Ben Hunt
Ben Hunt NRL highlights Video: YouTube