NRL News: Surprise twist in Hunt’s Dragons deal saga, Reynolds’ nervous wait, Klemmer sorry for ‘up yours’ to Eels


Ben Hunt could end up not only fulfilling the rest of his contract at St George Illawarra but signing on for another season in 2026 to finish his career at the club in a remarkable U-turn for the Origin star.

The club captain repeatedly asked for a release last season to return home to Queensland where he was in demand from the Broncos, Titans and Dolphins but after new coach Shane Flanagan has turned the team around in the off-season, he is now settled and open to extending his tenure.

Hunt is off contract at the end of 2025 and even though he will turn 36 before the following season kicks off, the Dragons are considering offering him a one-year extension, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report.

Disgruntled winger Zac Lomax is free to leave at the end of the year but the Dragons won’t let him go early unless they get compensation from Parramatta or wherever he ends up.

“Ben wants to be here,” Flanagan said at his captain’s run media conference before his team takes on the Knights in Newcastle on Friday night. “Ben will see out his contract and maybe go further so don’t confuse the issue of Ben and Zac. They are two different issues.”

Flanagan shot down suggestions Lomax could be traded from St George Illawarra before the end of the season as part of a player swap.

The news comes as Trent Robinson confirms the Sydney Roosters will not bid for Lomax when he is released from the final two years of his contract at the end of this campaign.

On Tuesday, weeks of agitation from Lomax’s camp culminated in the Dragons granting the State of Origin prospect his wish for an early exit.

“We can’t have people that don’t want to be here,” Flanagan said. “We’ve worked hard to turn him around. It just hasn’t happened so we’ve got to move forward.”

The decision has freed up roughly $1.6 million of salary cap space, with the club firm on not pitching in any of Lomax’s pay packet for 2025 or 2026.

The Dragons have since been linked with Penrith’s off-contract winger Sunia Turuva, who could be a like-for-like replacement for Lomax after Flanagan shifted him to the wing this season.

Zac Lomax of the Dragons is tackled. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Melbourne prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona, languishing in reserve grade, appears another option for a St George Illawarra pack that could use with some punch in the middle.

“We haven’t identified one particular player as yet,” Flanagan said. “(The release) has all just happened in the last week or two. We’ll assess the market and once again make a good decision for the club.”

One thing is for certain; Flanagan will not entertain a mid-season player swap despite a Dragons club statement suggesting otherwise this week.

“There’s no player swap going on,” Flanagan said. “Zac’s here for the rest of the year, I don’t know where all that’s come from.

“Hopefully this is the last time we speak about it because this is not news. This has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks. All the people I talk to are dead-set sick of it.”

Lomax has already been linked with a move to Parramatta, who could use another elite centre to play opposite Will Penisini in the back-line.

The Roosters will not consider making an offer for Lomax despite losing current first-choice centres Joey Manu and Joseph Aukuso-Suaalii to rugby union at the season’s end.

“We’ve got the centres that we want,” said coach Robinson. “We still need to add a couple of outside backs but not in that price range.”

Lomax had an unhappy 2023 under former coach Anthony Griffin, punctuated by a move from right centre to the left, a stint in reserve grade and a lacklustre spell with the kicking tee.

The frustrations continued this year after Flanagan moved Lomax to the wing to begin the season, though the 24-year-old has emerged as one of the Dragons’ best through four rounds.

Flanagan said he and Lomax were on good terms and that the issues dated back long before the season began.

“There’ll be stories going around that we’ve had arguments. There’s been none of that,” Flanagan said. “It’s gone on for a number of months, it went on from last year. It’s a decision the club has made and Zac and ourselves will move on.”

The Dragons announced on Thursday they had extended Francis Molo’s contract for another two seasons, with the former State of Origin prop now tied to the club through 2026.

Reynolds set for another stint on sidelines

Brisbane’s Adam Reynolds has avoided another knee injury but needs scans on a hamstring issue which left the skipper shattered during his team’s tight loss to Melbourne.

Reynolds was forced to watch the second half from the AAMI Park sidelines as the Broncos’ eight-point lead over the Storm evaporated, with the home side crossing twice late to book a 34-32 victory in their Thursday night clash.

The veteran playmaker’s kicking game had been key to his side taking a two-point lead into halftime, putting them on track for their first win in Melbourne since 2016.

Reynolds slammed the turf in frustration and limped off at halftime, leaving Brisbane fans concerned he’d suffered a serious knee injury when he appeared in tears in the change-room.

The halfback said it was his hamstring, rather than his knee but was unsure how long it would keep him out.

“It just tightened up in that first half,” he said after the match. “It didn’t feel too good at half time but I will get back to Brisbane, get a scan and go from there.

Adam Reynolds. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“I felt it early on in the game and it gradually got worse … I was trying to get through to halftime to see where I was but then I saw a bit of space on the short side and tried to take off and it didn’t feel too good there.”

While the Broncos will be sweating on the fitness of Reynolds, Melbourne No.7 Jahrome Hughes was integral to his team’s win – scoring a late try and setting up two others.

Hughes missed the Storm’s loss to Newcastle when he was banned for one game for making contact with the referee. Storm coach Craig Bellamy said his halfback had a point to prove.

“It was disappointing for us, but for him also, missing the last week,” Bellamy said. “I think he had a bit of a point to prove, and we thought it was a tough call, having to miss that week. He wanted to make up for that and he did, he did a great job for us.”

Bellamy was also delighted with the performance of Cameron Munster, with the superstar five-eighth playing his first match of the year after battling a mystery groin issue.

Munster had an understated showing by his own lofty standards but didn’t do much wrong.

“I thought he was real good, I’d give him a A,” said Bellamy when asked what report card he would give Munster on his return. “He didn’t do anything off the top of his head too much and I thought he defended well.

“Some of his kicks probably weren’t that great but he came up with the right options at the right time and it’s good to have him back.

“You’d like to think now that he’s going to just get better with a bit more match fitness, and a bit more training.”

Klemmer apologises for outburst at Gutherson

David Klemmer says he felt embarrassed when his son showed him a viral video of the prop celebrating the Wests Tigers’ win over Parramatta at the expense of Clint Gutherson.

Eels skipper Gutherson shanked a last-second penalty goal wide in the two sides’ Easter Monday clash that meant the Tigers hung on for a 17-16 win.

Klemmer was seen on vision captured on Fox Sports giving Gutherson an “up yours” with his forearms as the Tigers sealed their second straight win under first-year coach Benji Marshall.

David Klemmer says ‘bad luck Gutho…’ ????#NRL

— The NRL Tweet (@NRLTweet) April 1, 2024

While Marshall remained stony-faced in the coaches’ box, durable prop Klemmer conceded his emotions got the better of him. 

“We were lucky enough he shanked the kick and we got the two points,” Klemmer said. 

“My son showed me, I was a bit embarrassed after I’d calmed down. It was pure enjoyment – there’s no malice to ‘Gutho’, I shook his hand afterwards.

“It was pure happiness in winning a footy game. It has been a tough 18 months and to string two wins together so far is good and it’s got a bit of confidence in the footy club.” 

Klemmer was not alone in his exuberance during the dramatic win over Parramatta.  Back-rower John Bateman celebrated every call that went the Tigers’ way with equal enthusiasm.

The Roar League Podcast is on YouTube! Click here and subscribe to make sure you never miss an episode

“If you can’t celebrate those moments you might as well not be on the pitch,” Bateman said. “I enjoyed it and I have Justin (Olam) next to me and Api (Koroisau) in the middle and we want to bring that buzz.

“That energy, it helps the big boys when they’re blowing out their arse, and it can give them a little bit of a pump-up.”

But Bateman warned the Tigers could not rest on their laurels as Marshall prepares to coach against long-time mentor Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins and brother Jeremy Marshall-King at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.  A win against the Dolphins would give the Tigers three straight wins for the first time since 2018 when Marshall was the club’s first-choice five-eighth. 

“It’s still only two wins. I don’t want to be the ‘Debbie downer’, but no one will remember us if we go on to lose every other game this season,” Bateman said. “There’s a great confidence around the place and everyone’s enjoying the environment.”

with AAP

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.