Hunt will never silence NRL critics: coach

Ben Hunt will return to the halves for St George Illawarra's NRL clash with South Sydney but coach Paul McGregor admits the No.7 will never silence his critics.

BEN HUNT of the Dragons.
BEN HUNT of the Dragons. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

Paul McGregor concedes Ben Hunt will never silence critics as his star NRL playmaker prepares to return to St George Illawarra's No.7 jersey.

Hunt will return to starting in the halves for the first time in six weeks on Thursday night against South Sydney, after finding a new home at hooker.

Hunt's move had been successful before new half Adam Clune suffered a concussion this week, ruling him out of the Kogarah clash.

The Dragons have returned to form and Hunt has had less pressure on him at No.9, after falling under his regular spotlight before losing his halves spot.

In theory, the stint might benefit his return to the halves, having freed him up.

But, McGregor knows all too well that the focus will always be on his million-dollar man's performances.

"I think whatever Ben does, no one is ever going to be happy with. He seems to be a player that people go after consistently," McGregor said.

"Ben is a very good footballer, he's experienced and will do a good job for us.

"He knows how to play No.7. He has done it all of his career.

Ben likes to play No.7, so he is back in his preferred position. So we're looking for a big game from Ben."

Hunt might still spend some time at hooker, with Tristan Sailor on the bench and having trained in the halves this week at times.

That would allow captain Cameron McInnes to revert to lock during the game, having also moved out of dummy-half over the past month.

With Latrell Mitchell returning at fullback, Souths' bench suddenly looks significantly bigger with Liam Knight and Patick Mago both back.

Souths can climb back into the top eight with a win, while the Dragons are just one victory behind them.

If the Saints lose, though, they will likely finish the round four points out of the eight and with finals football a long way off.

"It's getting away from us if we don't start to getting the 'W's," McGregor admitted.

"It's getting to the stage where you are looking at what players you have and what you need to do and how hard you need to work through the week.

"But obviously, you have an eye on the other side of it which is the ladder."

STATS THAT MATTER:

* This is Corey Norman's 200th NRL game

* South Sydney have won their past four over the Dragons

* Souths make the least offloads in the NRL, with 6.5 per game.

Stats: Fox Sports