James Graham offers solution to Ben Hunt-Jayden Sullivan dilemma at St George Illawarra
St. George Illawarra have a dilemma over in-form captain Ben Hunt and young savage Jayden Sullivan.
Hunt’s contract situation has been in the headlines incessantly of late, with the QLD Origin star set to sign with competing clubs in two months for 2024.
The 32-year-old is in the best form of his career for the Red V and is among the favorites for the Dally M medal at the end of the year but is no guarantee of staying at the club for long.
Hunt was recently offered a “low-ball” contract extension by the Dragons as the club seek to balance its desire to keep its skipper on board while also building around the likes of Sullivan and Junior Amone for the future.
Sullivan has reportedly hinted he would seek a release if Hunt re-signed and blocked his path to the NRL, but according to former Dragons backer James Graham, there may be a solution to this problem.
Speaking of triple M, Graham urged his former club to move Hunt to hooker – the position he plays so well for the Maroons – and allow Sullivan to rise to No. 7 jumper full-time.
“The power brokers there have some big decisions to make about what the shape of the squad is going to be over the next few years,” he said.
“Dragons would be hammered if Ben Hunt left, but if the long-term vision is Sullivan, it’s akin to a debate about Adam Reynolds [at South Sydney].
“They let Reynolds go on the assumption that young Lachlan Ilias comes in, or to improve the squad, that’s short-term pain for long-term gain.
“I’m sure the club would like to keep Ben, maybe at the right price or maybe to play from the dummy half with the likelihood of Andrew McCullough continuing next season.
“Personally, I would love to see Ben play nine. It has to be a selfless decision and get Sullivan at seven.”
Sullivan is one of the most exciting young halves of the game, but his chances at the top grade have been few and far between since his debut in late 2020.
The 20-year-old has played off the bench or as a hooker at times this year,
The other issue standing in the way of Hunt’s possible extension is Anthony Griffin and his coaching future.
Hunt has made it clear he wants to be coached by ‘Hook’ – but the club have told him his contract renewals will not be linked.
“In terms of wanting an Anthony Griffin clause, that’s a big no-no for me,” Graham said.
“An absolute no-go. You can’t entertain that. It’s too powerful when the decision comes that the dragons want to part ways with Hook.
“That for me, just enforce a line and if you want to go because of that, good luck to you, we’re taking a stand because we’re not putting that clause in.”
Griffin has done a solid job since taking over the Dragons but the club is yet to reach the finals in his two seasons.
But according to another former Dragons star in Wendell Sailor, they need to move in a different direction.
“Do what’s best for you and your family, don’t worry about Anthony Griffin, he’s a big boy,” Sailor said.
“To be honest, if I were the Dragons I wouldn’t sign Anthony Griffin. I want them to have the best possible coach – what has he done? Nobody chases Hook.
“They are not playing finals again. As an ex-Dragon, I want the Dragons to play in the finals.
“The way the club have played this year – they have some young players there that I rate and I know they say they are nurturing them – he doesn’t inspire me as a manager.
“Some of the games they lost are games they should have won. Some of the talent was wasted during the season.”