At least Clune will give long-suffering fans some hope and momentarily take their minds off wanting McGregor out the door with 18 months still on his deal.
Clune was good enough to play in the NRL last year, according to former Dragon and Canterbury Cup coach Mathew Head, but was ineligible because he was not part of the club’s top-30 list nor one of their six development players.
“If you look around the competition, there are some people who play first grade that Clune is a lot better than,” Head told the Herald.
“It doesn’t mean you get there. We had a halfback in Darren Nicholls who was the same, and had he played at different clubs he probably plays [more] first grade.
“Clune just had to persevere. If you look at his last two years of reserve-grade footy, he’s been outstanding. He was the halfback of the year [in the Canterbury Cup] and our player of the year.
“He had 28 try assists and 27 line-break assists, so he’s a footballer the first-grade team need at the moment.”
Head, like all Dragons fans, accepted something had to change on team selections.
“Something had to happen and the halves, for one reason or another, are lacking confidence and they needed to change something up,” Head said.
“Clune could be that gel who helps Hunty and Normy get their running games back.
“Both those guys are world-class players, their Queensland Origin players, but Clune is a good organiser and might give them that bit of freedom where they can get back to running and play the footy we all know they can.”
Clune celebrates his 25th birthday on Monday, has a touch-football background and has completed a double degree in law and finance.
The fact he was elevated to the top-30 late means he is on the minimum salary, which is roughly 16 times less than the money paid to Hunt.
Clune’s first assignment could not be any tougher with New Zealand international and premiership winner Kieran Foran back from shoulder surgery for the Bulldogs.
Meanwhile, Suli opted to sign a two-year deal with the Sea Eagles worth about $1.1 million, despite a more lucrative three-year deal from the Dragons.
The Sea Eagles offered Suli a four-year contract but the centre was happy with two years. Manly are better placed to win a title in the coming years compared to the Dragons, something not lost on the youngster when he recommitted.
In other team news, Mitch Aubusson has been named on an extended bench for the Sydney Roosters after he missed the win over Souths to attend his father’s funeral.
James Roberts was again named on an extended interchange for Friday’s clash against the Storm. North Queensland star Jason Taumalolo will miss the Cronulla clash because of a knee injury while a dodgy hamstring keeps halfback Chad Townsend out for the Sharks.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.