Karmichael Hunt concedes an unlucky knee injury at the end of the Waratahs season has cost him a shot at making the World Cup, but the dual international is keen to strike a deal to stay on at NSW.
Hunt injured his knee against the Sharks at the end of May but returned to action for Gordon, in Sydney’s Shute Shield competition, over the last few weeks.
Under former Warringah premiership coach Darren Coleman, Gordon’s remarkable rise saw them go from the wooden spoon in 2018 - with one win - to nine wins in 2019. They missed the finals by a single spot, however, after other last-round results went against them.
Hunt clocked in his first 80 minute game against Western Sydney on Saturday but, a little like Gordon, it appears time has run out for a rise from nowhere to a coveted World Cup berth.
Hunt joined the Waratahs at the start of the year after a season in the wilderness with Queensland; sidelined by coach Brad Thorn over drug-related charges.
The contrite dual international set out to repay the Waratahs for the lifeline, and did so with a strong season. Hunt was named the Waratahs’ best back at their awards night last week.
But despite being mentioned as a leading contender for a World Cup spot throughout the season, Hunt needed to do more than most to get back on Cheika’s radar and the knee injury came with rotten timing.
With only a few Tests left before a squad is naming, the six-cap Wallaby understands his chance looks to have passed.
"Injuries are never timed well but in terms of my season and my ambitions to play Test footy, it just came at a really bad time,” Hunt told RUGBY.com.au.
"The way I see it as far as the World Cup goes, I am a bit of a long shot. When it happened, possibly, yeah I was a chance.
"But my goal now is to get back to full fitness and if my number happens to be called for whatever reason, I will be fit and ready to go.
"Again, I have had enough of a roller coaster throughout my career to know these things happen, injuries and setbacks happen, and all you can do is get back on the horse as quick as you can.
"It’s had its challenges, it’s not easy sitting on the sidelines watching the Super season go by and not be able to put your hand up in these Test squads at this time of year
"It’s definitely been frustrating but its not my first rodeo, as far as getting up off the deck and getting back in the ring for the fight."
Hunt has enjoyed his time with Gordon, which came about after a coffee with Coleman earlier in the year.
"It was pretty powerful. He painted the picture of Gordon over the last couple of years and then his plans going over there, just trying to get them up and about. He seemed like a genuine bloke who wants the best for his players,” Hunt said.
“You can’t win ‘Em all” - As they say. Another tough day for this exceptional group of men as they won comfortably in a solid performance v the Two Blues to walk into the news that the Beasts had upset the Woods & our season was over. We didn’t lose our season yesterday - we lost it in tight losses to Souths, Norths,Manly & Easts during the season. I couldn’t be prouder of the effort, commitment & sacrifice this group has put in over the last 9 months. We had a motto of “No Quit” and they never did. The fact they finished 3rd overall on for & against shows how hard they competed in every game & Missing the playoffs by a mere 2 bonus points. The greatest achievement of this team was it instilled pride back in the Gordon Jersey. It made Gordon people happy to say they supported Gordon again. It forged life long friendships. We already look forward to progressing as a team in 2020 and supporting the rest of the club as they shoot for premiership glory this month. I am proud to be a part of this team & great times are ahead. Regards, Darren Coleman “DC” Head Coach/Director of Grade Rugby 📷 @ajgq #stagsup #gazellesup #gordonrugby #gordoncolts #gordonwomens #family #fitspo #training #rugby #shuteshield #nswwaratahs #wallabies #tartanstrong #NQ
"He said if you’re available after Super and not playing Test footy, it’d be good to get your experience on board.
"He knows the game and knows how to run a football program by the looks of it. Gordon I think finish second in the club championships, which I am presuming is a fair improvement considering where they were last year, especially first grade.”
Hunt is pencilled in to play NRC but the short and long-term future is somewhat uncertain.
The 32-year-old is keen to stay with the Waratahs and the club want him to stay, too. But the parties are still trying to come to middle ground on the finances.
NSW effectively got Hunt on the cheap in 2019 with Queensland still paying a significant chunk of his salary, and Rugby Australia also contributing a top-up, too.
But with that contract now expired, the Waratahs have to contract Hunt entirely on their own.
"I have been chatting with the Tahs and that’s ongoing, we’ll see where we can get to in terms of the deal,” Hunt said.
"I think there is a mutual interest there. It just comes down to what terms we can agree on, that’s the managers job and they’re doing that now.”
With a lengthy CV in professional sport, Hunt could land a contract offshore but he said he’d like to put his experience to use for the Waratahs.
"I feel like there is a lot of football left in me, good football, before I end up heading overseas,” Hunt said.
"I see it as a big transition period for the Tahs. Obviously its a been a tumultuous year on a number of fronts, with Daryl moving on and moreso just in the group, with having lost a lot of experience in guys going overseas.
"We have a fairly good bunch of young boys coming through and I know my experience and leadership and what I can bring to the club would be beneficial going forward going forward.”
Hunt published an emotional post on social media after winning the Waratahs’ best back award, thanking NSW for giving him an opportunity after his troubled years.
"I have never really been one to think too much about individual awards, especially when it comes to a team environment,” Hunt explained.
"But just after what has happened over the last couple of years, it gave me a bit of perspective about all the hard work and all the trying times I have had and to have a good year at the Tahs, and to finish where I did in the Matthew Burke Cup and get best back, it was a nice pat on the back.
"As I said in my post, I was really appreciative of the Tahs for giving me the opportunity and I was glad I was able to pay them back in some way with some of the performances.”