Karmichael Hunt: Gordon’s boom recruit proving there’s more than meets the eye
By Matt Findlay
Ahead of his Shute Shield debut on Saturday afternoon, Gordon coach Darren Coleman couldn’t speak highly enough of boom recruit Karmichael Hunt and the impact he’s already had on the resurgent Highlanders.
Not so much in terms of his on-field influence either, although Coleman did admit Tuesday’s training session was probably the side’s best of the 2019 season so far.
Off the field Hunt’s faced plenty of adversity in his career which has, at times, swayed the public’s perception of him but while the spotlight doesn’t always reach as far as the other side of the ledger, there is plenty unseen.
That’s where Coleman’s gaze was focused, highlighting Hunt’s dedication, commitment and enthusiasm since linking with the Highlanders.
“Karmichael has not asked for a cent, he’s driven from Bowral daily, he’s attended sponsor and junior promotions for the club, he came to training last week during his official week of leave – he’s been nothing but a positive influence,” Coleman said.
Not that Hunt needs, or wants, kudos for that.
“I’ve been doing that drive for about six months now and, honestly, I’ve got my wife and three girls at home and I’m surrounded by the guys at the rugby club, so an hour-and-half by myself each way is a bit of a relief sometimes,” Hunt laughed.
“Seriously though,I don’t think it’s an effort to give my all no matter where I am. I do understand the kind of impact I can have with my experience and that sort of thing, but I’m just trying to be myself really.”
Hunt linked with Gordon earlier this season when the Waratahs threw him a Super Rugby lifeline after his unceremonious exit from the Reds following drug charges in 2018, two years out from the end of his contract.
Coleman explained the star was guided towards the Highlanders, a club with few Super boosts, by the Waratahs, but Hunt said Gordon’s coach and his vision for the club was a huge reason he’s landed at Chatswood Oval.
“I hadn’t had much to do with DC but he understood I was coming down and we caught up earlier in the year, I really liked the type of guy he came across to be and his plans for the club,” Hunt said.
“Gordon obviously struggled a bit in the Shute Shield last year and he had big aspirations, so I guess I could see my role as someone who could come in if the opportunity came and try to help them come through and get to where they wanted to be.
“It’s been a really good fit, I’m really looking forward to playing now. They’re a great bunch of blokes, very hungry to make the finals so there’s a couple of big performances needed over the next couple of weeks I think.”
Hunt’s debut for the Highlanders in Saturday’s huge round 16 clash against Northern Suburbs will be his first game back since injuring his knee against the Jaguares in May, which not only left him sidelined for the remainder of the Super season but curtailed his World Cup hopes too.
Hunt explained he’d ‘never say never’ to an 11th hour Wallabies recall although he conceded that’s probably entirely realistic, he hadn’t been included in two Australian camps prior to getting hurt.
“The injury didn’t come at the best of times … but I’ve faced plenty of hurdles and I’ve always found there’s only one real way to deal with them – get back on your feet, deal with it and move forward,” he said.
“So I’ve been working hard with the Tahs’ staff in terms of rehabilitation and while it’s certainly been a period when I wish I was playing, it’s been a time for me to get the rest of my body right as well.
“In terms of the Wallabies and the World Cup, I’ve always put my hand up for any opportunity to play for my country and that won’t change.
“I’m coming from a long way back if I wasn’t already being out last year but I can only control what’s in my control and right now that’s playing for Gordon this weekend.”
The fact his Highlanders visit North Sydney Oval to face the Shoremen isn’t lost on Hunt either.
“I remember watching the (North Sydney) Bears run around in the NRL many moons ago on TV, some of my idols were in that side so it’ll be special to play on that turf,” he said.
“I haven’t played club rugby in Sydney, I’ve played a bit in Brisbane with Souths last year, but it’s an experience I’m really looking forward to.
“I’m not sure how many weeks it’s been since I hurt my knee and it’s been frustrating but no matter the level there’s nothing quite like playing footy, so I’m really excited for it and we’ll just have to see where we go and where we get to.”
With two rounds to go Gordon are in the box seat to claim the last available finals spot but Randwick and Eastern Suburbs are breathing down the Highlanders’ necks, Saturday’s clash kick off at 3pm.