Many happy returns: Dan Hunt trains with his St George Illawarra teammates after recovering from off-season surgery.

Many happy returns: Dan Hunt trains with his St George Illawarra teammates after recovering from off-season surgery. Photo: Orlando Chiodo

Dan Hunt hopes an influx of new teammates and a fresh body will help him overcome a "tough" 2013 as St George Illawarra undergo a culture change.

A knee injury ended Hunt's 2013 season in round 16 and the prop underwent two off-season surgeries: he had an operation on his patella tendon to repair his knee and also had treatment for a shoulder injury as he looks to be fit for the club's annual Charity Shield trial against South Sydney.

Hunt missed St George Illawarra's 2010 premiership charge after tearing his Achilles tendon after 10 games.

In Hunt's absence, the Dragons won just one of their final nine games this year to finish just four points ahead of wooden spooners Parramatta.

"2013 was such a tough year," Hunt said. "The club, players and coaching staff know we can do better. We deserve better and that's what's going to happen. That's what I'm looking forward to most.

"[I'll] be trying to get at least one trial under my belt [before the start of the season], maybe the Charity Shield, and I'll see how that goes."

An injured Hunt and an ageing Michael Weyman left the Dragons front-row stocks depleted this year. Youngsters Jack de Belin and Jack Stockwell, who has re-signed with the club until the end of 2017, were left to carry the burden, and the duo are expected to battle to partner Hunt in the front row in 2014.

"Everything is going really well and I'm enjoying it," Hunt said. "[My goal] is to get back on the field. I've had two major surgeries and it's been a pretty tough road. I'm slowly getting back. I'm back running and I'm back into making contact with my shoulder."

A revamped playing roster has Hunt confident the Dragons will fight for a top-eight spot next season, having missed the finals in the past two years.

Gone are 2010 premiership players Weyman, Matt Prior, Nathan Fien and Matt Cooper, while Canberra back-rower Joel Thompson, Storm five-eighth Gareth Widdop and South Sydney utility back Dylan Farrell headline the Dragons' recruits.

Hunt said the new players had already made a positive contribution to the club.

"The team is unreal," Hunt said. "I'm really enjoying training. [With] the new guys, the whole culture has changed.

"Everyone is getting along really well. Having guys from successful teams like Gareth and Dylan, I think they have brought a lot to our side.

"I'm really looking forward to 2014. Everyone is tearing in and having a go. The standard and values that we have, everyone is buying in."

Hunt's teammates Josh Dugan (ankle), Tyson Frizell (ankle) and Bronson Harrison (knee) all had off-season operations but are in no danger of missing the Dragons' first game against Wests Tigers on March 9.