"I'll pour my Queensland passion into the NSW jersey": Hunt

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

The date hasn’t been circled for months and Brad Thorn has barely entered Karmichael Hunt’s mind this week.

But ahead of Hunt’s first ever NSW-Queensland derby representing the team south of the Tweed, the Waratahs recruit is quick to point out one thing: he bleeds blue now.

Okay, so that may take an occasional pause when State of Origin time rolls around in a few months.

But, like former Maroons teammate Israel Folau, Hunt has a simple theory on how to handle his switch of allegiance from Queensland to NSW.

Karmichael Hunt has impressed Wallabies coach Michael Cheika. Photo: Getty ImagesWhen it comes to Super Rugby, all the passion and devotion he once gave to the Queensland cause has now been transferred into the sky blue of NSW.

"Up until this weekend, it's just been go out there and do your job, it's been another rugby jersey that you're playing in,” Hunt said.

“Not just saying that it's just another rugby jersey -  there's a tremendous amount of history in there and I'm proud to be wearing the (NSW) jersey but this weekend's game is against the old foe, who I played all my school footy in the colours, obviously Origin and whatnot.

“So the way I look at it is I'm going to take all that passion and pride and whatnot that I used as a schoolboy in Queensland as a Bronco, an AFL player, an Origin player and just pour it into the NSW jersey this weekend.”

Like Folau, Berrick Barnes and Wendell Sailor did before him, juggling the switch is complex enough for Hunt .

But his first clash with Queensland on Saturday night at the SCG is no doubt layered with a few other emotions as well.

Hunt arrived at the Waratahs in January after being frozen out of Queensland last year, following a second brush with the law over drug-related charges. 

Despite being contracted for another year at Ballymore, Thorn made it clear Hunt would not play for him again so the 32-year-old found a new home at the Waratahs.

His form has been superb in two games so far, and though Hunt says proving Thorn and the Reds wrong is not a motivation, there’d have to be a sense of satisfaction if Hunt can help NSW get a win at the SCG - knowing that part of his salary this year is still being paid by the QRU.

"A win would be exactly what I would love and whether it's the Sunwolves a couple of weeks ago or Queensland this week, a win's a win for me,” Hunt said. 

"I'm still really good friends with the guys I'm playing against. So, that's going to be an experience in itself but as always, once the whistle goes, there's no friends other than the guys that you're wearing the same colours with and I look forward to going to battle with them.

"I think it was Alex Mafi who told me the date we were actually playing when we were chatting online but it's just another round for us to get better. 

"That's our focus, obviously we're not where we want to be as a team right now. We've worked pretty hard over the last couple of weeks to put some improvements in place and in front of our home crowd at the SCG, which will be a remarkable sight and put those processes into play."

Hunt has only ever played for Queensland or Queensland franchises in all his codes, and the last time Hunt played at the SCG was in 2013, when the Gold Coast Suns lost to the Sydney Swans.

He is hoping for another home win and Hunt will, on the evidence of the Tahs’ first two games, be instrumental for NSW in getting it done.

Hunt has been strong at both no.12 and no.13, particularly defensively, and that skill will be tested by big ball-running Queensland centres.

Even with Jordan Petaia out, Samu Kerevi is a talismanic presence in the middle.

"I've got a bit of information on the boys having known them quite closely for the last four or five years but obviously Jordy's a big loss for them, especially after the start that he had, but he's got firepower,” Hunt said. 

"Whether they bring Chrissy (Feauai-Sautia) to 13 and push Samu to 12 or give Duncan a go at 12 and Samu at 13. 

"There's plenty of options Brad's got at his disposal, who are really good footballers. So, we'll have to be on notice in terms of when they bring their team out, how they look to play their game and we'll adjust accordingly.”

After two games Hunt’s name has already returned to Wallabies and World Cup discussions, and while he says that chat is premature and not part of his focus, the versatile back said he had definitely re-gained his confidence after a year on the sidelines.

"I think that the process of me gaining the belief again in myself probably started when I first turned up to the joint,” Hunt said. 

“Seeing the guys, how they were around with the coaching staff, seeing some of the performances that I was putting in on the training track and then transferring into trials and the first couple of games, has definitely has given me the belief that I'm back where I'm belong.

"I'm just taking the opportunity with both hands." 

The Waratahs take on the Reds at the SCG at 7.45pm on Saturday night. LIVE on FoxSports TV and RUGBY.com.au radio.