Dragons hunting future big names

St George Illawarra Dragons 2009The Dragons are ready to continue their rebuilding phase; believing they have the coach and operations to snare big names in the mould of Darren Lockyer and Karmichael Hunt.

With Hunt and Lockyer off contract at the end of 2009, Bennett could be ideally placed to lure the playmakers to Kogarah. While Lockyer would be difficult to entice to Sydney at this stage of his career, Hunt is certainly in a position to take a different direction in his young career.

However, Hunt may be guided by close friend and team mate Justin Hodges who unsuccessfully tried to make the trip south with the Roosters several years ago.

Wayne Bennett has been the only coach both Lockyer and Hunt have known in their first grade days. Should the Broncos perform poorly in 2009 and harmony becomes an issue under Hejack, the two key players may certainly assess their options.

“They’re all people that we’d like to think would be interested in the Dragons going forward but our main priority is to settle down with what we’ve got and see how that fits,” Dragons chief executive Peter Doust confirmed this week.

“The coach is really working on a plan now, having completed our rosters for 2009, of seeing people play and how they play together so we won’t be rushing into anything at the moment.”

The chance for the two Broncos to fit in seems real; with fullback remaining a problem for the Dragons since Clint Greenshields left a few seasons ago. They have tried Hornby and others; but have typically played it as a utility role. Hunt would slot into no. 1 perfectly and solve their woes.

Being able to grab Lockyer in the halves would help St George Illawarra even more; not since Trent Barrett have they had a solid playermaker from which to build around. Much will depend on the progress made this year with the likes of Matt Head, Ben Hornby and Jamie Soward in the halves rotation.

Hunt is also believed to be in hot demand across codes, some sources suggest Karmichael may seriously look at other options – given he was painted in a bad light by the press; after a female alleged sexual misconduct at a Brisbane nightspot. The allegations were refuted and never concrete enough to proceed; but it would have certainly left Hunt frustrated and angry with the public – Union may help him escape the spotlight somewhat.

Interestingly at Kogarah, Dragons CEO Peter Doubst has said the presence and methods of Wayne Bennett have already forged a new environment and feeling at the Dragons – an impressive remark, given Bennett has only been on deck and training the troops under 2 months.

“You introduce someone of that calibre and you’re looking to instigate change,” Doust said.

“Wayne as a professional has recognised all the good things about St George Illawarra … he’s dealing with a marquee club, an icon of the game, and he understands that there’s a lot of things here that only need to be tapped or twisted a little bit.

“So we’re working together not to overhaul the club in any major way, but to take it to that level that we think we should be at.”

The Dragons will be boosted by renovations to their Kogarah home, which will now be called – WIN Jubilee Oval,  with fans already pumped about a Round 3 match-up against former favourite son Trent Barrett, now playing with Cronulla.

Bennett interestingly backed the concept of smaller suburban grounds when he faced the media recently to talk about the newly finished additions to WIN Jubilee.
“Grounds like this just give you atmosphere, it’s automatic. The big grounds, you need the crowds there to do that.

“Last year I turned the TV on, I wasn’t going to watch the Titans playing the Wests Tigers, and I looked at Leichhardt (Oval) and it was packed and the atmosphere was just coming through the television and I sat and watched the whole game.

The Dragons, along with the Sharks, Bulldogs and Broncos will be closely watched in anticipation early in 2009 – with all outfits either recruiting strongly and featuring several new faces; along with some bringing on board new coaches for the year.

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