Hunt­ing for per­fect pair­ing, Wid­dop sees Ben as one to make the grade

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NRL - MICHAEL CARAYANNIS

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.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.