Hunt is signed at the Dragons until the end of 2023, on a rich deal struck ahead of his move from Brisbane prior to the 2018 season.
That deal is reported to be worth an average of about $1 million a season.
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The Dragons confirmed in July they’d started the process to extend Hunt’s contract, with the 32-year-old reportedly seeking a two-year deal to run through until 2025.
Speaking on Nine’s 100% Footy, Danny Weidler revealed the Origin gun could be forced to take a massive pay cut to stay at St George Illawarra.
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“There’s been talk that Ben Hunt has been offered $850,000 a year to stay with the Dragons when his contract runs out at the end of next year,” Weidler said.
“They’ve actually lowballed him, the Dragons. He’s been offered around 700 (thousand) a year.
“I think the Dragons are of the opinion he will stay with the club because of his love of the coach, Anthony Griffin.
“He’s made it quite clear he wants to play under Anthony Griffin.”
Weidler said the Dragons will be forced to up their offer or risk losing their star player, who will be able to negotiate with rival clubs from November 1.
“The 700 (thousand) offer I don’t think is going to sit well with his management,” he said.
“I think at least four or five clubs will be hearing this news and thinking we can have a crack at Ben Hunt. I think at 700, he’s a bargain.
“I think the Dragons are kidding themselves if (they think) 700 will keep him there.”
Despite constant criticism over the size of his pay packet, Hunt has been in fine form for the Dragons, and picked up the Ron McAuliffe Medal as Queensland’s player of the series in both 2019 and 2021.
He was at the top of the Dally M Medal leaderboard when voting went behind closed doors in May.
Former New South Wales captain Paul Gallen said Hunt still has plenty to offer.
“I think he’s a really good player,” Gallen explained.
“There’s a lot of players these days playing into their 30s, halves don’t get beat up that much. Cooper Cronk played until he was 36 or 37.
“I still think he’s got a couple of really good years left in him.”
Bulldogs football boss Phil Gould said the Dragons can’t afford to lose Hunt.
“I don’t think that will be enough to sign him. My understanding is he asked for something like 850, 875 (thousand), which I thought was pretty reasonable in the current market,” he said.
“Given his status within that team, the Dragons really struggle when Ben Hunt’s not on the field, he’s pretty much carrying them every week, I’m not sure they can afford to do without him.
“That’s pretty reasonable money for a player with his credentials. You’d pay him that for sure.”
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