Ben Hunt made a great Dragons debut on Thursday night.
Ben Hunt made a great Dragons debut on Thursday night.

Halves combination gives Dragons plenty to dream on

GARETH Widdop and Ben Hunt say their combination at St George Illawarra is still in the working stages after the 34-12 pummelling of Brisbane in the NRL season opener.

But as far as first impressions go, this was something of a beauty.

Built off the foundation of one of the strongest forward packs in the competition, the pair combined brilliantly and were involved in everything on Thursday night.

 

Hunt set up the Dragons' opening try and scored his team's next against his former club, while Widdop threw the last pass for two others.

Ben Hunt ran rings around the Broncos halves in St George Illawarra’s 34-12 win on Thursday night. Photo: Phil Hillyard
Ben Hunt ran rings around the Broncos halves in St George Illawarra’s 34-12 win on Thursday night. Photo: Phil Hillyard

Critically, it marked the first time Widdop has played alongside a recognised and experienced No.7 at the club, having largely been forced to make do with regular five-eighths since his move from Melbourne in 2014.

"He's a halfback who will go at the game, he's not going to sit back and wait," Widdop said.

"Obviously he did that tonight and I think every player tonight put their hand up tonight and played some good football.

"My combination with him is only going to get better with time. And obviously with (fullback) Matt Dufty there, it's a pleasing first start."

The duo who only united in January due to World Cup commitments, have had just eight weeks alongside each other at training.

They are also one of 11 new halves pairings in the NRL this year, after Hunt's $6 million signature at the Dragons kick-started one of the biggest market merry-go-rounds in the game's history.

Gareth Widdop charges into the Broncos defence.
Gareth Widdop charges into the Broncos defence.

"It's coming along really well," Hunt said of their partnership.

I still think we've got a long way to go but 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 nice."

Widdop is signed until the end of 2021 while Hunt will be at the Dragons until at least the end of 2022, with an option to stay for up to another year after that.

 

They're part of the reason why coach Paul McGregor spoke in the off-season about the club's premiership window opening over the coming years. Another is the development of the rest of their spine.

Hooker Cameron McInnes, who was dangerous as ever out of dummy-half, is also there until the end of 2021, while Dufty still has his best seasons well ahead of him.

"He's an exceptional player Cam, I've never seen anyone work as hard at training as he has," Hunt said.

"And young Matt Dufty, he is coming along really well. I think there is plenty of improvement left in his fame and hr's only going to get better as the year goes on."



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