Hunt backs hair follicle testing to 'help players'

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

Karmichael Hunt says he was subject to hair follicle testing over the past 12 months and believes it could be a positive step forward for rugby players across the country.

Hunt was today unveiled as the latest star in the Waratahs' squad as part of a player swap with Bryce Hegarty and immediately fronted the media, prompting questions regarding the illicit drug use which terminated his time at Ballymore.

The 32-year-old declared those days were behind him and said he could prove as much when he revealed he had been subject to hair follicle testing which Rugby Australia is considering making a mandatory exercise for all players.

"I've been subject to this hair testing over this past year and I think we are looking at the tests trying to catch people out," Hunt said.

"The most important thing - which I've been working on with my doctor's and psychologists - is that it's a way to help players to get better as well.

"If they have issues or are hiding issues or need a bit of help... that's the perfect way to get them on track."

Steering himself back "on track" has been a priority for Hunt through 12 months spent on the sidelines.

He now believes he has put the demons plaguing his life behind him and puts that down to a newfound, open and honest approach to combatting those demons.

"First and foremost it's about me speaking up," he said.

"Not bottling things up and trying to cop things on the chin and hide things.

"That, in the past, that type of behaviour... it's all good on the football field if you are hurt and trying to lead your team on the field.

"But personally it eats you away on the inside.

"I'm a more open, honest person than I was."

Honesty is the only policy for Hunt considering even he admits this is his last chance in Australian rugby.

He was handed one final lifeline by Tahs coach Daryl Gibson but only after a similarly honest conversation with Reds boss Brad Thorn.

"I initiated a conversation with Brad at the end of the NRC to just try and get some clarity around what was going to happen for me next year," Hunt said.

"He clearly alluded to the (fact) that he wasn't going to pick me and once I heard it from the horses mouth - which is the first time that happened all year - I spoke to Em, my wife, and she said ring up your manager and try and get somewhere else."

Hunt has now landed in Gibson's garage while he searches for a more spacious residence but he couldn't be more grateful.

"It's been a trying last five years but last year especially," he said.

"Time away from the game has forced me to reassess things which weren't getting addressed.

"It's been a pretty tough learning curve being away from something that I love and that's competing.

"To be able to given the opportunity to pull the Waratahs jersey on - which is steeped in history in rugby - they were a game away from a final and are a team that's ready to win.

"It's been a humbling experience and a growing one.

"It's been important for my evolution as a person and I can't wait to get back involved."