Clubs on alert as NRL half-back set to test open market

Josh McAllister
Jayden Sullivan celebrates a try against Wests Tigers in the NRL. Photo by AAP Image/Dave Hunt.

Jayden Sullivan celebrates a try against Wests Tigers in the NRL. Photo by AAP Image/Dave Hunt.

St George Illawarra Dragons have told young playmaker Jayden Sullivan that he is free to enter the open market for the 2024 season. 

The West Australian have reported that the 21-year-old could be set for a switch at the end of the season, with incoming head coach Shane Flanagan now confident in retaining captain Ben Hunt.

Half-back or hooker Hunt, 33, told the Dragons that he wanted to be released earlier this season following the sacking of head coach Anthony Griffin.

St George Illawarra reportedly rejected Hunt’s request, with his current contract running with the club until the end 0f 2025 after signing an extension last October.

The former State of Origin representative was said to be keen to join a Queensland-based club if he could be granted a release, according to Fox Sports.

However, incoming boss Flanagan, who will take over ahead of the 2024 campaign with Ryan Carr currently acting as interim coach, is now reportedly confident in keeping the club’s skipper.

The fresh confidence means that Sullivan, who is contracted through to 2025, has been told he is free to explore his options, having previously asked for a release in 2022 only to withdraw the request.

Sullivan made his NRL debut in 2020 against Melbourne Storm for the Dragons, and has gone on to make 27 appearances to date, scoring seven tries.

He has made 12 appearances in 2023 to date and is reportedly on an approximate contract worth $500,000 a season (£260,000).

Jayden Sullivan to attract interest

Both Canberra Raiders and Wests Tigers are on the hunt for new half-backs for next season. Jack Wighton will depart the capital’s side for South Sydney Rabbitohs, while Luke Brooks has penned a four-year deal with Manly Sea Eagles starting 2024.

Meanwhile, several Super League clubs are looking to bolster their squads in the backs for next year.

Hull FC will lose Australian playmaker Jake Clifford at the end of the season after just one season at the MKM Stadium, with the 25-year-old set to return to the NRL.

He is expected to return to former club North Queensland Cowboys after rejecting a monster deal to stay in Super League.

Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer both remain without deals at Leeds Rhinos beyond the current campaign, with the latter linked with a return Down Under after four seasons in Super League following his initial move to Huddersfield Giants in 2020.

32-year-old Austin has also stated that he would be open to a return to the competition Down Under, with contracts ongoing at Headingley Stadium.

Cade Cust could also yet leave Wigan Warriors, with the playmaker’s contract set to expire at the end of the season. Bevan French has been utilised in the halves alongside England international Harry Smith by head coach Matt Peet in 2023, with Jai Field playing at full-back.

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