Dragons legend pitches plan to ditch Ben Hunt
Hunt has two years left on his current deal with the Red V but wants to see out his career in Queensland.
Hunt flirted with moves to both the Broncos and the Titans, although neither gathered serious momentum. However, it looks like he will remain at the Dragons for the foreseeable future.
Any deal after his current stay would see him play on until the age of 36, potentially putting him among the oldest players in NRL history.
Speaking with Wide World of Sports, Cooper said the Dragons would be wise to let Hunt go after the 2024 season, acknowledging that move would leave them searching for an adequate replacement earlier than expected.
“The thing with the Dragons is if they let him go, who have we got to replace him with? So that’s the hard thing,” Cooper said.
“I personally feel like Flanno should be looking at a replacement for the second year and maybe that’s the compromise they do with Ben is say, ‘All right, you play next year and we’ll give you the last year. We’ll let you go for that last year’ – but Flanno needs to find someone in that year.
“They’ll have the money because if they let Ben go they’re gonna have money up their sleeve – and so I feel like that’s Flanno’s job, is to start building a team now for 2025. I feel like next year is going to be obviously a bit different because you’ve got Flanno in there, you know he’ll make a change.
“If they said that to Ben, I think Ben would be happy. I think he’d go, ‘Okay, I’ll put in a good year at the Dragons and then I’ll go play my last year in Brisbane’. Will Ben be happy with that? Probably. Maybe. There’s a lot of factors.
“Is Ben gonna be happy with that? Is that what Flan would do? And who’s the replacement? I think that’s probably the best way they could go about it. Because if they go, ‘All right Ben, you can go next year’ the Dragons are gonna be stuck. It’s too late to get a top half right now for next season.”
Cooper suggested a compromise might yield better results for all parties with Hunt “fired up” to finish strong at the Dragons in 2024 and look forward to a potential deal with the Titans in 2025.
In any case, the Dragons will need to find a replacement for 2026 at a minimum.
“I’m sure there’s someone out there,” Cooper said of the Dragons’ options.
“There’s always the next Nathan Cleary or the next Ben Hunt, they’re out there. He could be 18. That’ll be a job for Flan and the recruitment department of the Dragons.
“If they get it right, 2025 will be a great year. Hopefully I’ll be in there helping out.
“Flanno will probably be able to bring in more coaches that he wants because like I said, there’s a lot of coaching staff on one-year contracts.
“Hopefully Flanno will get a good feel of the team and then pick his coaching staff for that 2025 year.”