Potential eases pain of 2017 for ex-Dragon

Better times ahead: Former Dragons forward Dan Hunt said it was disappointing to see his team miss the finals but he believes they will be strong in 2018. Photo: KIRK GILMOUR
Better times ahead: Former Dragons forward Dan Hunt said it was disappointing to see his team miss the finals but he believes they will be strong in 2018. Photo: KIRK GILMOUR

Former St George forward Dan Hunt believes his beloved club will be finals contenders in 2018, overcoming the disappointing of missing out this year.

Hunt was in Dubbo for a suicide prevention day at Sporties on the weekend but couldn’t resist talking about the team he played 150 games for.

Hunt admitted it was hard to watch his team miss out, especially when they were denied by a shock final round loss that saw North Queensland edge them out of eighth place.

However he said there were a lot of positives to come out of the season and said coach Paul McGregor and his men have plenty to look forward to next year.

“They had a really good start to the season. I thought they bought really well. Paul Vaughan’s outstanding, Russell Packer, Gareth Widdop had a really good season. I think we just lost our way a bit,” he said.

“We weren’t consistent. You look at the games against Souths and against Newcastle, they were two games we should have won and that would have put us in the eight.

“The Cowboys then took our spot and they make the grand final.”

Hunt said the loss of Packer and Josh Dugan would be a blow but believes the recruitment of former Bulldogs captain James Graham will add versatility in the front row, with more of a focus on passing rather than running the ball forward for five tackles.

He also expects someone like Matt Duffy to step up and fill the gap left by Dugan.

Even though the Saints weren’t in the finals, Hunt said it was still an absorbing finals series and he hoped fans appreciated watching Melbourne’s big three of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater play together for the final time.

Cronk is still deciding if he will retire or play with a Sydney club in 2018 after choosing to move north to be with his partner.

“Watching the finals series, it was a great spectacle,” Hunt said.

“Joey [Andrew Johns] said be mindful that we are watching these players, three quality players will never be together again. They were class. Billy Slater is just getting better. Cooper Cronk is the ultimate professional.

“Cameron Smith is a magician. He just goes about his work and noone can touch him. He makes 50 tackles a game, has a great kicking game and looks like he barely raises a sweat.”

And Hunt expects Cronk will play on.

“It won’t be with Melbourne obviously but I think Cooper will go around again. And Billy has resigned with the Storm so he will be around for another year and Cam will definitely be there,” he said.