Dragons superstar Ben Hunt has reportedly knocked back the club’s latest extension offer in a brutal blow to the club’s 2023 finals hopes.
St George Illawarra’s initial offer was a two-year deal worth $700,000 and $750,000 which was rejected by the club’s player of the year,
Now, according to The Australian’s Brent Read, the Red V will need to “sharpen their pencil” to retain their marquee playmaker after their latest offer wasn’t enough to get a deal over the line.
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“There were further talks today and Ben Hunt has rejected their latest offer, that is not saying he is going to November 1, that is not saying it is dead,” Read said on NRL360.
“It is just saying their latest offer hasn’t been good enough to get the deal across the line, so they need to sharpen their pencil a bit the Dragons.
“Initially the sticking point was they made him an offer, but you have to put in those ratchet clauses they put in deals now right, it wasn’t what they wanted.
“They took the ratchet clauses out and upped the offer, and I am not sure what the sticking point is now.”
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Hunt signed a lucrative $1.2 million-per-season five-year deal ahead of the 2018 season, and The Daily Telegraph’s Buzz Rothfield believes it is time for him to re-pay the club.
“He has got to take a pay decrease at this stage of his career,” Rothfield said.
“St George have been very very good to him and probably paid him more money than he was worthy of until this year.”
“Certainly in the early stages of that contract, it was a five-year $1.2 million deal, for the first few seasons at least he was getting paid overs,” NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent said.
While Hunt’s management have reportedly conceded their client will need to take a pay-cut, Read is concerned the Dragons may not be able to fork out the money he is seeking.
“To be fair to him and his camp, I think they understand he is going to have to take a bit less,” Read said.
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“The initial offer was $700,000 and $750,000 for two years, that had ratchet clauses in it so it would have ended up being around $850,000 to $900,000.
“If that’s not good enough, you have to think it is maybe good enough.”
The Dragons also reportedly rejected Hunt’s bid to include a get out clause tied to Anthony Griffin.
While Hunt’s stellar season was a major positive for the Dragons, his potential re-signing has caused a major headache for Red V officials.
Young gun Jayden Sullivan, who was seen as the club’s halfback in-waiting, reportedly receives a huge pay-rise from 2024 onwards which could cause a salary cap squeeze.
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“The other issue they have got is Jayden Sullivan, I think it is from 2024, his contract goes through the roof because the expectation was that he would be the halfback,” Read said.
“So you could have Ben on massive money, Jayden Sullivan, sitting in reserve grade on big coin.
“Then they have the Tyrell Sloan issue that won’t go away, so they are juggling a few balls the Dragons.”
Hunt has reportedly sat down with Bulldogs supremo Phil Gould to grasp his interest in a move to Belmore.
The Titans and Dolphins are also reportedly interested in signing the veteran playmaker, and his future could be the deciding factor surrounding Sullivan’s stay in Wollongong.
“I know they (the Bulldogs) have an interest in Sullivan if Hunt stays, there is a few clubs sniffing around Hunt,” Read said.
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