The Brisbane Broncos' Ben Hunt is reportedly chasing $850,000 a season.
The Brisbane Broncos' Ben Hunt is reportedly chasing $850,000 a season. DAN PELED

Penrith denies it's on the hunt for Bronco

PENRITH boss Phil Gould has shot down recent reports the Panthers are in the multi-million dollar race for star Broncos half Ben Hunt.

Over the past 48 hours various outlets have linked the Brisbane playmaker to Penrith despite the club having boom young playmakers Nathan Cleary and Te Maire Martin signed until the end of 2018 and 2019 respectively.

"We have a number of talented youngsters at the club who we have brought through our development system and we are very happy with our playing roster as it stands,” Gould said in a statement released by Penrith on Friday afternoon.

After an impressive retention drive that has tied a whopping 14 players to Penrith until the end of 2019, as well as the recent recruitment of Test and Origin prop James Tamou, a serious rejigging of one of the game's most promising rosters would have been needed to accommodate Hunt.

Current Panthers coach Anthony Griffin was the man who kick-started Hunt's career during his final campaign at the Broncos in 2014, with a breakout year earning the player a Kangaroos debut after four seasons finding his feet at Red Hill.

Hunt's future has been the subject of ongoing speculation as the Broncos battle to keep over half a dozen off-contract big names, and the No. 7 declared last month that he would test his value on the open market.

It's understood the 26-year-old is asking for a salary around $850,000 as he negotiates the biggest deal of his career, and the Dragons have reportedly come to the party this week with Channel Seven News claiming a $1 million a year deal has been formally offered.

The Broncos themselves have not given up on retaining Hunt, with a three-year extension until the end of 2020 also being tabled recently.

While halves partner Anthony Milford ranks as the club's No.1 re-signing priority, Hunt sits right behind him given the pair guided the club agonisingly close to a 2015 premiership.

Having welcomed his first son into the world late in 2016, Hunt told reporters recently "you have to look around ... to make the best decision for myself and my family”.

But the lure of keeping his kin in Brisbane and at the only club he has known since entering their system at the age of 12 still holds serious appeal.

As for Penrith's scrumbase, boom rookie Martin has put on four kilos in a bid to stand up to the rigours of first grade and regain the No. 6 jumper Bryce Cartwright filled in the Panthers' charge to last year's finals.

Martin's promising debut season was cut short by a fractured shoulder in April, but he still toured with New Zealand and played his first Test against Scotland in the Four Nations in November.

Griffin is leaning towards partnering Martin alongside Cleary from the outset of the 2017 season, but is refusing to discount the solid form of Cartwright in the five-eighth role late last season.



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