Waratahs edge closer to locking in Hunt

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs are closing in on securing Karmichael Hunt for 2020 as the Super Rugby preseason nears.

Hunt is off-contract in 2019 and though he had an injury-riddled Super Rugby season, what he showed in his first year with NSW was enough for him to claim the side's Best Back Award.

Both parties have been open about their desire to come to an agreement but Hunt is yet to put pen to paper on a new deal.

That, though, appears to be almost a formality now with only logistics believed to be holding up a final agreement three months out from the 2020 Super Rugby season kick-off.

While the Waratahs have not made any official announcement about Hunt's future, it is clear they see him as a NSW player going forward, using him in their membership promotions.

NSW’s recruitment of centre Tepai Moeroa for next season had initially clouded Hunt’s future after an injury-ravaged 2019 but it appears things are moving towards the utility staying with the team.

The utility back has settled in NSW in his one season with the Waratahs, living in the state’s Southern Highlands with his family.

The 32-year-old landed at the Waratahs after spending a season effectively exiled from the Queensland Reds in the wake of drug possession charges.

Hunt was finally able to return to Super Rugby after the Waratahs offered him a lifeline and the two teams engineered a player swap.

A knee injury ended his Super Rugby season early in 2019 but still won NSW’s Best Back Award at the end of their campaign this year.

Hunt told RUGBY.com.au in August that he was hoping to stay on in NSW into 2020.

"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 at the time.

"I think there is a mutual interest there. It just comes down to what terms we can agree on, that’s the manager’s job and they’re doing that now.”

Hunt's experience will be invaluable for the Waratahs next season as a host of veterans head offshore.

Sekope Kepu is heading offshore next season. Photo: Getty ImagesNSW has bade farewell to Sekope Kepu (London Irish), Tolu Latu (Stade Francais), Bernard Foley (Kubota), Nick Phipps (London Irish) and Curtis Rona (London Irish) in 2019 and will be looking to players like Hunt to step up to help the next generation.

The player swap paid off for the Reds as well with a deal that sent Queenslander Bryce Hegarty to Ballymore.

Hegarty was solid for the Reds in the Super Rugby season and Queensland moved to extend his contract through to 2021.

Meanwhile, NSW Rugby’s search for a CEO is also set to take a step forward in the coming weeks but the organisation is not going to be rushing into making an appointment before the end of the year.

Andrew Hore surprised many by announcing a move to Auckland’s Blues, leaving the Waratahs to find a replacement CEO less than three months out from the start of the Super Rugby season proper.

The organisation are not speeding through the process but will appoint a recruitment firm for the process in the coming weeks.

NSW Rugby chairman Roger Davis said an appointment “sooner rather than later” was ideal but there was no pressure to make a call too early.