Hunting for perfect pairing, Widdop sees Ben as one to make the grade
FOR four years and double that number of halves partners, Gareth Widdop has been the Dragons’ go-to guy.
Lumped with running the team and the added responsibility of being captain, Widdop is finally at ease with taking a backward seat.
He has had eight halves partners since arriving at the Dragons in 2014, when he was plucked from a settled Storm combination with Cooper Cronk.
His combinations since have been anything but settled.
Benji Marshall proved the most constant, playing 53 games alongside Widdop but the two never really clicked.
Josh McCrone is the only other player to reach double digits with Widdop.
Widdop is hopeful he has finally found “the one” when he runs out alongside new recruit Ben Hunt for the first time on Thursday night when the Dragons start their 2018 season against Brisbane at WIN Jubilee Oval.
“It has been tough the last few years,” Widdop said. “I’ve had a lot of different halfbacks.
“It’s never easy. But you can’t help it. I have a job to do in this team regardless of who the halfback is. I need to go out and do my role first. It helps having a halfback who is going to be here (for) a few years.” Widdop re-signed until the end of 2021 just months after Hunt inked his six-year-deal, giving the Dragons muchneeded stability in their spine.
After being the chief playmaker since his arrival, Widdop has called on Hunt to take control of the side.
Their combination is still a work in progress following two trials as both players adjust.
“We’ve only had two games
together so it’s a little bit hard to judge (how things are going). We’ve linked all right.
“It won’t be perfect but we’re doing everything possible to make it as good as it can be. He is the halfback of the team. He is a strong ball-carrier. We need him to do that for the team.
“He is a good player. He will add a lot to my team. If your six and seven are working well together, it helps the team.”
The pair will get an early crack to see how far their combination has progressed when they face Hunt’s former side Brisbane. The Dragons have a horrid record against the Broncos, losing 12 of their past 13 games, including their four most recent encounters.
“I love playing at Kogarah,” Widdop said. “It’s a tough challenge against the Broncos but we need to go out and execute what we’ve been working on.’’