Former AFL general manager of development David Matthews says the code’s experiment with Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau has been worthwhile.
One of the men instrumental in getting code-hoppers Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau into AFL insists it has been a worthwhile exercise that will continue bearing fruit.
It was confirmed on Thursday that former rugby league star Hunt would end his four-year stint with Gold Coast at the end of 2014.
Hunt played 44 games, while fellow former Brisbane, Queensland and Kangaroos league teammate Folau quit Greater Western Sydney in late 2012 and switched to rugby union after two years and one AFL season in which he logged 13 appearances.
While some sceptics have questioned their value to the AFL, that view isn’t shared by GWS chief executive David Matthews.
He was the AFL’s general manager of development at the time they were lured from the NRL.
Matthews said each played a big marketing role at his respective club and their payments were modest compared to their promotional value.
“I think it’s been worthwhile,” Matthews said on Thursday.
“Some of the ways to measure it are still to come and that is the conversations that Hunt and Folau have put us in across NSW and Queensland.
“We see a lot of players coming to our academy and I’m sure Gold Coast are finding the same – young players from other sports that are trying our game.
“So I’ve got no doubt Karmichael Hunt has put us into conversations of the game we wouldn’t have had before.”
Matthews said Hunt was one of the best athletes in Australia and rated his AFL stint as successful.
“To do what he did in rugby league and then go over and play rugby union the way he did and the way he committed himself to the Gold Coast, in many ways he probably put them on the map,” Matthews said.
“He was a thorough professional.
“I’m delighted for him that he’s been able to achieve what he’s achieved, but also disappointed for him that he’s had to battle so many injuries.”
Matthews described Folau – a dual league and rugby union international – as one of the great athletes in the world, but felt the player had lost patience with himself while learning AFL.
“I know the coaching staff here felt that if he persevered, he could have continued to develop,” Matthews said.
“Certainly, if we’re able to attract an Israel Folau at 13 or 14, which is what the academies are designed to do, then I think it’s really going to open the floodgates.
“We’ve only got 10 per cent of AFL players come from NSW and Queensland and it’s not enough.
“I think in time to come, Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau will have stimulated a bit of interest.