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Macca's on Dragons' menu: Broncos hooker set for immediate switch

Ben Hunt believes his ex-Brisbane teammate Andrew McCullough would be an asset to the Dragons on and off the field as he looks forward to starting his own season with the knowledge he will be wearing the No.7 jersey.

After sitting out of Broncos training on Thursday, McCullough’s move is expected to be confirmed within days and Hunt said he was keen to reunite with the former Queensland hooker, who has been targeted by new St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin for his "game-management skills".

The clubs have been negotiating around a McCullough move since the new year but they are yet to make an official comment on the veteran's impending move.

Hunt and McCullough played together under Griffin at the Broncos, along with five-eighth Corey Norman, and the trio are set to fill the spine with Matt Dufty at fullback if the Dragons can finalise a deal with Brisbane to release the 31-year-old hooker.

Griffin wants incumbent captain Cameron McInnes to play lock - the position he will fill at Cronulla next season after last week agreeing to a four-year deal with the Sharks.

Hunt feeling confident under Griffin's leadership

McCullough returned to Brisbane after a short stint at Newcastle last year in which he impressed early, only to tear his hamstring off the bone and undergo a lengthy recovery.

However, his pre-season training form impressed new Broncos coach Kevin Walters enough to consider him for a leadership role and Hunt also believes McCullough still has plenty offer in the NRL.

"Macca is very professional and he does everything well," Hunt said. "I know he has had a couple of injuries now but I think the hamstring one is a bit of a freak and I back him to get back to playing the best footy he can."

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Hunt said he would be “rubbing my hands together” if the deal happens.

"He brings a lot of leadership, he has obviously been around the game a long time and he is very professional about everything he does on an off the field," Hunt said.

"He is good for the culture of the club and he was always involved in everything when I was at the Broncos, culture wise and helping out. He just won’t be a smart footy head, it will be off the field helping out as well."

The signing of McCullough, who was absent from Broncos training on Thursday, would enable Hunt to focus totally on playing halfback as St George Illawarra would have three specialist hookers, with Billy Britain also in the squad.

Hunt said Griffin had told him he would be used at halfback during their first conversation after the former Brisbane and Penrith mentor was appointed to replace Paul McGregor late last year.

"He gave me a call and we had a quick chat about things at the club and what’s going on," Hunt said. "He said to me straight up that he wants me to play No.7, that is where he sees me playing my best footy, and we have just got on with it from there.

Everybody’s heading to Magic Round

"It is the only place I have trained all pre-season and it is the position Hook said he wants me to play so it is all systems go at this stage. I guess it has just picked up from where we finished those years ago at the Broncos."

Griffin is able to offer players assurances about their position after the Dragons scrapped the selection panel responsible for picking teams under McGregor and Hunt said the early call was a boost to his confidence after switching between halfback and hooker last season.

"It is good to know you have got that full support and that the coaching staff are really behind you and driving you to play better," he said.

McInnes: 'I will leave on great terms'

"There was a lot going on last year and at the end of the day that was probably the players' fault – we weren’t winning games so there had to be something done – but it does make it a lot easier when you have just got one voice calling the shots. It is making things a lot clearer."

Norman is expected to be given the first shot at five-eighth ahead of less-experienced playmakers Adam Clune, Jayden Sullivan and Junior Amone but he is awaiting a decision from the NRL Integrity Unit over an off-field incident in Cronulla.

"I kind of feel for him in this situation, it is a bit of a tough one," Hunt said of Norman. "He is training really well at the moment and he is eager to get out and prove himself.

"He turned 30 the other day and he is in a contract year so he is keen to play some good footy."

McCullough had been jostling for a starting No.9 role at the Broncos with Jake Turpin but was a noteable absentee from training on Thursday and his departure now appears to be a formality.

Brisbane still has fellow veteran rake Issac Luke on a train and trial contract and also ex-Knights and Manly hooker Danny Levi as another option after he joined Intrust Super Cup club Norths Devils last week.

Andrew McCullough and Ben Hunt at Maroons training in 2017.
Andrew McCullough and Ben Hunt at Maroons training in 2017. ©NRL Photos

McCullough's exit is set to free up much-needed salary cap space as the Broncos work on keeping their best and brightest young talent beyond 2021 including Kotoni Staggs, Tom Dearden and Xavier Coates.

A McCullough switch to Wollongong is unlikely to trigger an early exit for McInnes at this point.

Cronulla do not have the salary cap space to bring the 27-year-old in a year early.

Dragons in 2021

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