Dragons confident Hunt won’t follow Griffin out the door

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St George Illawarra CEO Ryan Webb is confident the sacking of Anthony Griffin won’t cost the club the outgoing coach’s most fervent supporter, halfback and captain Ben Hunt.

The Dragons sacked Griffin on Tuesday morning, installing assistant Ryan Carr to fill the breach for the remainder of the season. The club will now ramp up its pursuit of a permanent replacement, with Jason Ryles at the top of a shortlist that also includes former players Ben Hornby and Dean Young.

Hunt sought to have a get-out clause linked to the coach inserted in his contract before re-signing, a request the club rejected. While the Maroons playmaker’s manager Col Davis last week indicated Hunt was staying put, that comment was before Griffin was axed.

Asked if he was concerned that Hunt may now want to leave, Webb told this masthead: “No. We spoke to Ben prior to this morning and he is hurting as much as anyone with the lack of success.

“He’s got a great relationship with Anthony and I don’t think that will be weakened by this. He’s a professional, he’s a competitor and he wants to win. With those things in mind, he will push on and hopefully be leading from the front, trying to turn things around.

“There were conversations had with him today and he’s expressed disappointment that the results haven’t come and it’s come to this with Anthony.

Ben Hunt has a strong relationship with Dragons coach Anthony Griffin.Credit: NRL Photos

“He’s also expressed an understanding that we’re here to win games and we haven’t been doing it. He understands that sometimes these things happen.”

The Dragons have been heavily criticised for triggering a contract extension that allowed Griffin to continue in the role this season despite not making the finals since arriving at the joint-venture outfit.

“At the time we had seen some improvement, we’d brought in new assistants, we changed some structures around in our pathways,” Webb explained. “A lot of things have worked really well, but it ultimately hasn’t led to wins on the field, which is key really.

“We will go through the process, speak to the candidates and I’m confident we will get the right person. We will support Ryan Carr and hopefully we have some success in the short term as well.”

The Dragons have big decisions to make on players coming off contract, potential recruits and the structure of its football department. Those calls will likely be made after the new coach is appointed, a process Webb feels will be completed within a fortnight.

“It hasn’t held up any retention pieces, but with recruitment we’ve been a bit cautious on that,” he said. “It’s similar to the staffing piece, you don’t want to bring in a player you’re unsure about or the type of player who suits. I wouldn’t say it makes it hard, but we’ve definitely put a pause on while we go down this process.”

The Dragons have been criticised for employing too many former players. Ryles, Hornby and Young also have history at the Red V, but Webb said that wasn’t a prerequisite for the next coach.

“I think it’s a collection of attributes you’re looking at,” Webb said. “I wouldn’t say that we are looking for someone with a direct connection to the Dragons, it’s about their capabilities as a whole as a coach.

“The key names are still left and we’re still trying to learn a little bit more about them now. We want to understand them a bit deeper so we can get to know them better.”

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