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Hunt could walk after dud Dragons offer, Dugan in strife for brawling, Ciraldo switch pleases Kikau

Ben Hunt could be on the way out of St George Illawarra after knocking back the club’s first offer to extend his contract.

Hunt, who has opted into the final year of his multimillion-dollar deal for next season, recently kicked off negotiations for a two-year extension to take him until the end of 2025.

According to Nine reporter Danny Weidler on 100% Footy on Monday night, the Queensland Origin star’s management was underwhelmed by the $700,000 per season offer put forward by the Dragons.

With clubs like the Dolphins and Bulldogs in the market for a marquee halfback, there is a chance Hunt could walk sooner rather than later if he can attract a better deal.

Redcliffe are cashed up despite filling most of their roster spots for their foundation season as they have yet to land a top-line playmaker to complement their roster of young prospects, solid first-graders and veterans.

Hunt is in career-best form and one of the leading contenders to win the Dally M Medal.

The Dragons have a balancing act on their hands because the management of young halfback Jayden Sullivan, who has signed until the end of 2025, have indicated they would seek a release if Hunt re-signs, blocking the rising star’s path to the No.7 jersey.

Hunt has stated he wants to remain at the Dragons with Anthony Griffin at the helm but the coach’s future is also uncertain heading into the final year of his three-season deal. 

Despite saying he did not think a rebuild was required and the team could challenge for the finals, Griffin has taken them to 11th spot last year and they are 10th heading into the final two rounds of this season.

Josh Dugan (left) shapes up to a Trundle opponent.

Dugan sent off in bush league

Former international Josh Dugan is again in the news for the wrong reasons after he was sent off for fighting while playing for Group 10 team Orange United Warriors on the weekend.

Playing in the Woodbridge Cup, Dugan ran the ball from the field of play over the dead-ball line as time expired and opponents from the Trundle Boomers took exception to him showboating as he pulled off the unsporting act. 

After Dugan threw the ball back at a Boomers player, he can be seen throwing a punch at another one as players from both sides rushed into the melee in amateur footage published by NewsCorp.

Dugan’s team is due to play Oberon in the preliminary final this weekend but the former Raiders, Sharks and Dragons fullback may be suspended for his fisticuffs.

The 32-year-old, who was released by Cronulla at the end of last year after an unproductive four-year stint, has a long history of misdemeanours on and off the field.

He was fined $50,000 by the NRL and booted out of Cronulla’s biosecurity bubble for his second COVID-19 breach in less than two months late last year.

Kikau thrilled Ciraldo joining him at Dogs

Penrith second-rower Viliame Kikau is looking forward to continue working with Cameron Ciraldo, the incoming Canterbury NRL coach from whom he has taken leadership cues during his time at the Panthers.

Ciraldo has been Ivan Cleary’s right-hand man at the Panthers during their resurgence and after weeks of speculation, was confirmed as the Bulldogs’ new head coach earlier this month.

Kikau is so far the only Panthers player joining the Bulldogs next year, having signed a lucrative four-year contract before the 2022 season started.

Ciraldo’s impending arrival at the club has only sweetened the deal. “Obviously I was happy about it. I like ‘Ciro’ as a coach,” he said. “He’s taught me a lot of stuff since I got to Penrith. I’ve learned a lot.”

Currently responsible for Penrith’s premiership-winning defence, Ciraldo has shown Kikau that leaders aren’t always the loudest people in the room.

“Some days he comes in and does so much of the talking and sometimes he’ll just leave it to the boys asking questions,” he said.

The softly spoken Kikau seems to have taken this revelation to heart as the Panthers embark on their quest for back-to-back titles.

“Last year I was talking way too much and I feel like when I talk too much, I can’t focus on what I really need to do,” he said.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 17: Viliame Kikau of the Panthers is tackled during the round 18 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Penrith Panthers at CommBank Stadium, on July 17, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

“So this year, I’ve still wanted to take that leadership role but I’m just trying to do my job. I talk when I need to, but I don’t need to talk all the time. That’s worked for me. I’ve done that this year and I’ve played well when the boys have been missing.”

A key component of Penrith’s destructive left edge, Kikau said he hoped to bring more than just leadership to the Bulldogs from 2023.

“For myself, it’s just all the little stuff,” he said. “Being reliable, turning up week in, week out, still learning when you’re winning, that’s been the best thing for us this year. 

“We’ve been winning but at the same time, everyone is still eager to learn every time you walk into this building.”

Kikau is keen to keep learning, insisting his best football is still to come. “I’m still chasing that. Where that’s going to be, I’m still finding out,” he said. “I’m still finding my feet and trying to play consistent footy.”

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