DRAGONS prop Dan Hunt has thrown his support behind coach Steve Price, saying the embattled mentor had the approval of the playing group.
In the wake of Craig Bellamy’s decision to reject the Dragons, Hunt, who won a 2005 Jersey Flegg premiership under Price, said the current coach should be the club’s long-term option.
‘‘I’ve got a great relationship with him and he knows how to get the best out of me,’’ Hunt said.
‘‘I’d love him to stay as our coach. I don’t think there is a decision to be made. Pricey is our coach for 2013 and we’ll deal with whatever comes in the future.’’
The Dragons four-month pursuit of the premiership-winning coach ended when Bellamy committed on Monday to the Storm until at least the end of 2016.
Although St George Illawarra chief executive Peter Doust said he would work through potential coaching options, Hunt insisted the innuendo had not been a distraction.
‘‘We’ve got Pricey’s back all the way,’’ Hunt said.
‘‘We weren’t too worried about the Bellamy stuff; we don’t really buy into that type of stuff.
‘‘We’ve got our ranks pretty closed and we’re buying into what Pricey is coaching and we believe in him. I think it’s disrespectful to Pricey to talk about it; he is a really good coach.’’
A slight calf strain has kept Hunt, 26, in Wollongong as the bulk of his teammates prepare for their first hit-out of the season against North Queensland in Cairns on Saturday.
Hunt, fellow prop Michael Weyman (knee) and the overlooked centre Nathan Green are among the top players not travelling with the squad.
He expects to play in next Friday’s annual Charity Shield clash against South Sydney in what will be the Dragons final hit-out before facing Melbourne in round one on Sunday, March 10.
Weyman, who is returning from a knee reconstruction, will pack down once again alongside Hunt in the front-row.
NSW State of Origin prop Trent Merrin will switch to lock to replace retired Dean Young.
‘‘Losing Weyman hurt us a lot,’’ said Hunt, who helped spread an anti-bullying message at Hurstville Adventist School yesterday.
‘‘When you lose your main go forward, it does hurt you and takes you a while to find your feet.
‘‘I thought we finished off the seasons strong and me, Trent and Mick all feed off each other.
‘‘I think we’ve got one of the best forward packs in the competition.’’
The Dragons have altered their pre-season in a bid to avoid missing consecutive finals for the first time in the joint-ventures history. Skill work and the volume of training have increased.
‘‘We’ve upped the ante a bit,’’ Hunt said. ‘‘We’re doing a lot more skill and pass and we’re doing a lot of pre-line passing.
‘‘I don’t want to steer away from what works for me which is running hard and making sure my workrate is high but if I can add a few components to my game, it’ll go a long way to advancing me as a player.
‘‘If you can have that pass or an off-load, it’s going to make you a better player.’’
Is Steve Price the Dragons long-term option?