Hunt at home in sky blue ahead of NSW debut - and keen to stay

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

Having shaken off the weirdness of wearing sky blue, Karmichael Hunt is so content after a month at NSW he is keen to stay on for a few years.

Hunt will make his Waratahs debut on Saturday night against the Hurricanes at Brookvale Oval, where the dual international last played as an 18-year-old Brisbane Bronco, in 2005.

A 14-year career has unfolded since, including a celebrated league stint, a few years in the AFL and most recently a turbulent stint at the Queensland Reds that saw him exiled by Brad Thorn last year.

Facing another year playing club rugby in Brisbane, Hunt was picked up on a one-year contract with the Waratahs and landed in Sydney only last month.

It hasn’t been a long time training but with his vast experience, Hunt was trusted by coach Daryl Gibson to start against the Canes at no.12.

Hunt in a NSW jersey will be a strange sight given he played 10 times for Queensland Origin team and 32 times for the Reds, and has only ever played for Queensland franchises in all codes.

But after a few weeks of training and a few trials, the 32-year-old said he’s now used to sky blue and is proud to wear it.

“I think I passed that bridge about four weeks ago when I first put the jersey on, and put the training gear on,” Hunt said.

“More than anything I am just excited to get out there. It’s going to be a proud moment for myself, with the journey that has been before.

"But to go out there with the guys and do this jersey proud, I am really looking forward to it.”

Hunt said his focus is short-term but he said he was definitely open to the idea of extending his contract with NSW past the end of the year, and believes he has several good years of footy left in him.

“I said to Daryl when we met up, before we signed a contract, is that I feel like I have plenty to offer,” he said.

Karmichael Hunt is looking forward to getting back on the field. Photo: Getty Images“Obviously having had a year out last year, kept on the sideline and not playing footy competitively, but my body feels refreshed and revitalised. I will get through this year first and foremost and then hopefully if all goes well, possibly stay.”

Hunt’s last game of Super Rugby was in mid-2017, and though he played club and NRC rugby last year, the utility hasn’t played at the elite levels for some time.

He won’t be allowed to ease back in, either, with the Hurricanes among Super Rugby's best teams for the past five years.

Hunt said while he has only had a month of official training, he kept himself in readiness throughout all of 2018.

“Physically I feel good, the mind is good,” he said.

“The preparation has been a bit of a whirlwind got start off with, it has only been four weeks in the process. But I feel as I ready as I will ever be.

“I have tried to stay ready for the last many months I have been out of the game, so once the opportunity came up I was ready to go and hit the ground running.

“I have just been pushing forward to do my best every day to get better, and understand the system and get to know the guys. So once Daryl gave me the nod to start, and my make debut for the Waratahs, I was more than happy and ready to go.”

Karmichael Hunt caught Scotland's eyes on the weekend. Photo: RUGBY.com.aus/Stuart WalmsleyAre the shoulders ready for bullocking Hurricanes no.12 Ngani Laumaupe?

“They’re as ready as they’ll ever be. What’s this? Year 15. I am looking forward to the challenge,” he said.

“The Canes are a physical team who like to play direct, through the seams between 10 and 12 are going to get a workout tomorrow night. We have been well prepped.

“It has been a continuous focus for us, shoring up the defensive lines. And we will get the taste of first contact tomorrow night to see where we are at.”

Hunt has played less than 15 minutes in a trial with centre partner Adam Ashley-Cooper but the pair’s collective experience, particularly communicating, should be enough to smooth out any bumps, he said.

“He is such a cool head out there,” Hunt said.

Hunt said his history with Folau from rugby league, and a handful of others from the Wallabies’ 2017 campaign, had helped him get up to speed quickly at the Waratahs.

“We have some camaderie there from the past,” he said.

“Izzy and I have a long history together but with Foley, Hoops, Dempsey, all the boys. I know them well, although we have only played a few times together. It helps.

“To be able to integrate without any issues there, not having to meet all the guys for the first time, it’s made out a lot easier.”

The Waratahs take on the Hurricanes at Brookvale Oval on Saturday February 16, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.