Axe hovers over O’Brien as contenders emerge; sleeping giant’s title statement: Talking Pts
The Ben Hunt saga rolls on with the 33-year-old likely to link up with the Broncos this week, and many key figures in the game have expressed their displeasure.
Meanwhile, a rugby league legend has urged a Manly youngster to get ‘his act in order’ in the wake of the season-ending injury to Tom Trbojevic and will Knights coach Adam O’Brien be the next coach sacked?
Read on for all of the biggest talking points out of Round 17.
A host of influential voices have condemned the NRL’s “flawed” contract system amid the unfolding Ben Hunt drama, with the Dragons star’s move to the Broncos looking imminent.
Hunt is publicly pushing for an immediate release despite his lucrative contract running until the end of 2025 and will meet with incoming Dragons coach Shane Flanagan on Monday.
The veteran backed up from Origin in St George Illawarra’s embarrassing loss to the Warriors on Friday night, but Hunt has almost certainly played his last game for the club.
Wayne Bennett said there was “no accountability” when players are allowed to break contracts, while Billy Slater said clubs can’t have it both ways as Mal Meninga and Cooper Cronk called on the NRL to “fix it” immediately.
Mick Ennis described it as “a stain on the game” and Corey Parker said “it just looks so bad” for Hunt to leave the struggling 15th-placed Dragons for the top-of-the-table Broncos.
“The disappointing thing for me is there’s no accountability with it, that’s the disappointing part for me personally for the game, not just on this incident,” Bennett said.
“We all go and sign contracts, we all go and make deals, I just think there’s got to be something better than what we’re doing right now.”
“It’s untenable and very messy, that’s the thing that upsets every involved in rugby league,” Meninga said.
“We all understand Ben is unhappy at the Dragons and wants to move back home for personal reasons and family reasons.
“Just fix it, get through the next couple of days and have an outcome that both Ben and the Dragons are satisfied with and just move on because it’s become a saga.”
Hunt infamously dropped the ball in golden point of the 2015 grand final which handed the premiership to the Cowboys.
Cronk backed Hunt’s return to Brisbane for the remainder of this season before linking up with the Titans on a two-year deal.
“I think it’s a smart move on Ben Hunt’s part because he’s had a terrific career, 33-year-old, won a World Cup, dominated Origin at stages but one thing he hasn’t done is win a grand final,” Cronk said.
“So going back to Brisbane, where he’s played in one, I think it fits. Obviously Adam Reynolds there but he’d play No. 9 you’d imagine. I think the back-end of this year if you want to achieve the ultimate, I think Brisbane stacks up.
“But I think the whole system that’s in play here needs to be fixed immediately because Ben Hunt is copping a lot of pressure, the Dragons are copping a lot of pressure. The system is flawed and needs immediate addressing.”
Flanagan is reportedly “wasting his time” meeting with Ben Hunt on Monday in an attempt to keep the star halfback from leaving the club.
Meninga, who is a senior advisor at the Titans, said if Hunt joins the club he’ll start at halfback not hooker, where he plays for Queensland and Australia.
“He’s been one of the best No. 7s if not one of the best players in the competition the last three seasons and he’d be a great acquisition for any club,” Meninga said.
“He’d be sensational for the Titans and I think by his presence he’d put them in a situation where they’d be chasing a premiership.”
Queensland coach Billy Slater said clubs can’t have it both ways with players.
“Clubs are allowed to sack people at the drop of a hat so why can’t players sack clubs at the drop of a hat?” Slater said on the Sunday Footy Show.
“You’ve got to have it both ways, but it’s tough because Justin’s obviously put everything into that, because he’s family’s up on the Gold Coast, you live and breathe that job so it’s disappointing for him.
“The Dragons have done it, they let Josh Kerr go last week and he played for the Dolphins and there hasn’t been an uproar about that.
“When a player isn’t performing for a club, they’re asked to leave, when a club isn’t performing for a player, why can’t it be the same case?”