Test debut that Hunt couldn't see coming

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt will always share a rare tale in Australia’s sporting landscape.

Whether that amounts to an answer to a pub trivia question or a larger role in Australian sporting folklore, the pair’s three-code journeys are in many ways intertwined.

Hunt caught up with Folau’s rugby journey this weekend, making his debut against Fiji four years after Folau’s maiden Test (against the British and Irish Lions in 2013) and eight years since their last season together in the NRL (for the Brisbane Broncos).

The significance and tandemic nature of the duo’s careers is not lost on Hunt, who only last year felt a Wallabies berth may have been out of reach.

“It is funny how life works out,” Hunt said.

“Geez, so much has happened since ‘09, so to be here, playing my debut as a 30-year-old (is great), I didn’t think that was going to happen. But I am going to really enjoy it, especially for my family,” he added after Australia’s win over Fiji.

“Our history is well-documented, some of the best times we’ve had playing together was at the Broncos and since then we’ve been playing opposite each other

“But to be on the same field today was fantastic and to see him perform the way he did, I couldn’t be happier.”

In the bigger picture, their careers in three football codes will always be a footnote in conversations about them, something of which Hunt is aware, though he was happy to appreciate his latest achievement.

“I think for me, I’m probably savouring the moment a lot more now, just being a little bit older, a bit more mature and understanding that to get to this point has been a hard journey and it wasn’t guaranteed with everything that’s gone on,” Hunt added.

“I’m really going to just let it soak in and be present with it, because it was highly unlikely a few years back.

“So to be here, is a dream come true.”

Though he felt the pace was a bit above him in the opening stages, Hunt worked his way into the game, particularly with his defensive efforts, ultimately being one of Australia’s best.

“The pace was a bit hot early on for me. Obviously the nerves and that had a bit to do with it, in terms of how I was feeling,” he said.

“I just wanted to get early touches to try and get my groove and get in the feel of things and I felt like I did that.

“So, it was obviously good to get my debut and run out there and obviously complete 80 minutes so I think I’ll be better for the run.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was pleased with Hunt on debut, and his role in the dual playmaker structure the Wallabies play.

“I think he held a nice little holding role in the middle,” Cheika said.

“He got a few carries, his defence was good, it was aggressive and his work rate’s always excellent. He’s always back up on his feet, straight back in the line or he’s working back out to a position. For his first outing, it was pretty handy.

“There was a fair bit of defending to do but I thought he was pretty good.”

The Wallabies head to Sydney on Sunday, ahead of next week’s clash with Scotland.