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Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop.

Michael Witt, Sam Williams, Benji Marshall, Adam Quinlan, Kurt Mann, Josh McCrone, Drew Hutchison … and even, Jack de Belin.

That's the long list of players who have partnered St George Illawarra Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop in the halves during his five-year career at the club.

And with all due respect, none of those are in the calibre of Cooper Cronk, who Widdop began his career with at the Melbourne Storm in 2010.

Widdop quietly hints at it, which is why the club's decision to bring Ben Hunt to the club was music to the English international's ears.

''I think I played with six or seven halfbacks in the past few years,'' Widdop said.

''When you've got a traditional halfback in the team who is going to guide you around with a good kicking game, it certainly does take a lot of pressure off myself.

''I get to roam around a bit more, roam the field and jump in when needed. I'm enjoying that at the moment and knowing I've got a halfback there that's going to be there for a while."

Widdop can feel a sense of his time at the Storm coming back to him with Matt Dufty providing the speed at the back, not unlike that of a young Billy Slater, along with stability in the spine.

Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop.
Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"Yeah, it certainly is," Widdop said.

"It's been a few years since I've had a similar halfback [to Cronk]. And there are similarities there and with Matt Dufty at the back there as well. Any time you can keep your spine together for long periods and you're all on the same page generally you're team plays well.

"It's sort of been that I've dominantly played on the left and the other halfback, whoever has been there, has been on the right. And then the fullback has been swinging a bit.

"I think just bringing Ben in, and he's obviously played a lot of games, he can move around the field quite well. And then for myself it frees me up. I enjoy it, I think it's a good move.

"I've found myself on the other side of the field probably more than I did the whole of last year."

But for all the talk, Widdop, the players and Dragons fans have seen it all before. A two from two start and the hype that follows.

The club will be hoping the additions of Hunt and James Graham, who featured heavily in finals series with rival clubs over the past five years, can take the squad to the next level and stop another slide down the ladder from happening again.

"There's no secret we started really well last year and finished the season terrible," Widdop said.

"There was that period there where we lost five games to teams down the ladder. We shouldn't be losing those games. You need to be on your game, because if you're not you'll get hurt.

"Hopefully we've got players in the squad now who have learnt from last year and got a bit more experience not to do that again. But that's a long way away."

Dragons press conference

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St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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