The AFL has defended the move to recruit rugby league star Karmichael Hunt to the Gold Coast Suns.
Leigh Matthews says it was ill-advised and he hopes it never happens again.
But AFL chief Gillon McLachlan has defended Gold Coast’s decision to recruit rugby league star Karmichael Hunt on a multi-million dollar deal and did not rule out something similar happening in future if a club was keen.
Hunt announced on Thursday he was quitting the code after a career which netted 44 senior matches from 2011-14.
Matthews, who coached Brisbane to three consecutive AFL flags in 2001-03, has slammed the decision to recruit the 27-year-old Hunt.
“I don’t believe it should have happened five years ago and I just hope we’ve learnt our lesson,” Matthews told Fairfax Radio.
McLachlan’s video-taped message of congratulations was played at Hunt’s retirement media conference.
“The AFL and Gillon, if he went out of his way, it was only to justify the exorbitant money that ends what was an ill-advised, ill-fated experiment with the poaching of Israel Folau (to Greater Western Sydney) and Karmichael Hunt from other sports with financial offers just too good to refuse,” Matthews said.
McLachlan said bold decisions were needed at a new team.
“These are start-up clubs in markets where we are not the dominant sport,” McLachlan told Fairfax Radio.
“They were risky decisions. Karmichael Hunt, why I thanked him was he took an incredibly courageous decision.
“To leave his comfort zone … and to go out and play and commit to the Suns, and being such a huge brand, I don’t think we can underestimate the impact he had on creating the culture as well as the profile of that club.”
Hunt’s promotional value was a major part of his role.
“Everyone would remember that goal he kicked against Richmond in Cairns after the siren,” McLachlan said.
“He has played 44 games. He has been a huge success there.
“The Suns are on the edge of the eight. They’ve sold out a couple of games this year.
“This is their fourth year in. You have to look at the profile, the brand, the marketing that he’s provided, as well as the leadership.
“People generally accept that Harley Bennell wouldn’t be at that club now without Karmichael Hunt, because he has been such a mentor to him.”