He cost the AFL millions for a mere 44 games, but in the end Karmichael Hunt’s time with Gold Coast was always about more than his on-field performance.
Cold, hard numbers show the AFL’s multi-million dollar investment in Karmichael Hunt resulted in a mere 44 matches across four seasons for Gold Coast.
But the reality for Hunt, a fledging expansion club and the competition itself is his value was never truly about his output on the field.
Hunt says he leaves the AFL a better professional and person than he was when he abandoned a glittering rugby league career to gamble on proving he could play in a different code.
After debuting in the NRL in 2004 as a 17-year-old, Hunt was already a premiership winner, a State of Origin and Test player and one of the bona fide stars of the game when he quit to become what was viewed widely as nothing more than a publicity stunt for the AFL’s expansion team on the Gold Coast.
Hunt would go on to surprise many by proving himself as an AFL footballer in the Suns’ first two campaigns, playing 34 games and kicking a memorable winning goal after-the-siren against Richmond in Cairns in 2012.
By his own admission his rugby league physique couldn’t however keep up with the aerobic demands of the game and hamstring tendonitis in 2013 was the beginning of the end of his AFL experiment.
Hunt could only manage four games from round six, 2013 – including just one appearance in 2014 – as his body continually betrayed him.
Even the chance of one last hurrah in Sunday’s season finale for the Suns against West Coast was beyond him, with Hunt telling coach Guy McKenna he didn’t want to get picked for the clash with the Eagles.
Despite the disappointing end, Hunt feels his time in AFL was a success and if he’d been physically able his desire was to stay in a game he’d come to love.
“If I was fit and able to run the k’s that these boys do at pace, I dare say if I was in form and able I’d have stayed (in AFL),” the 27-year-old said.
“Just not to be. My genetics suggest that I should be playing another game.
“I pushed it as hard as I could. I left no stone unturned.”
Hunt said when he first arrived in a Suns’ dressing room his aim was to earn his teammates’ respect.
He says he’s happy he’s done that and can leave the game with his head held high.
“I’ve never focused on medals or the amount of games I’ve played. It’s never been a driving factor for me,” he said.
“If I was focused on goals, if I was focused on accolades, I probably would have stayed there (rugby league) and tried to clock up 300 games.”
Hunt wouldn’t discuss his future but it’s expected he’ll be unveiled by Super Rugby’s Queensland Reds on Friday evening.
He says the physical problems which curtailed his AFL career won’t be an issue in his new sport.
“I’m confident. I’m definitely not going to a game where I have to run about 12 kilometres every Saturday,” he said.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to get through without any injuries.”
NOT JUST A PR STUNT – KARMICHAEL HUNT’S AFL NUMBERS
Career disposals average: 11.1
Career tackles average: 2.8