The Final Grade for Karmichael Hunt

Remember that scene in The Matrix where Hugo Weaving dangles Keanu Reeves over train tracks?

“Hear that, Mr Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability.”

No doubt that classy line is getting a run around now that the inevitable has happened and Gold Coast’s poached rugby league recruit Karmichael Hunt has called time on his AFL career.

But was Hunt’s AFL career a failure?

Those who say “yes” will do so on two counts: their fond memories of Hunt sidling out of the play in his first season, riddled with cramp from the first five minutes onwards, and the simple fact that he was picked up as a promotional tool, not a player. They might even snicker at those old Swisse Ultivite ads in which he took a specky off a Parisian wall.

In 2011, Hunt was, without a doubt, the most overpaid player in the game. Few would dispute that. Quite often, he seemed to be actively avoiding the ball. He will finish his AFL career having played 44 of a possible 88 matches, with Gold Coast reporting that a new injury will keep him out of this Sunday’s clash with West Coast at Metricon Stadium. Form and endless soft tissue injuries kept him out of the side. He played just two matches in 2014. His three year contract has been fulfilled. Back to rugby league, perhaps? Actually, he has indicated that he intends to go to rugby union team the Queensland Reds.

Was he a failure? Well, the AFL, in ceasing their endeavours to buy more code-hoppers, may have already settled that debate.

 

However, Hunt’s supporters are likely to point out his promotional value as well as the improvements he has made to his game since 2011.
Yes, he started out as a very limited player on an obscene $3 million deal. Yes, he was there first and foremost to gain the attention of rugby league’s audience. However, the improvements made by Hunt in 2012 rank with just about any other player in that time: he averaged nearly 15 touches a game, playing in and out of the midfield for an impressive 18 matches.

Furthermore, his increased fitness and work rate were applauded by opposition coaches and fans alike: after Hunt was voted Gold Coast’s best afield in their Round 5 clash, North Melbourne coach Brad Scott declared, “Anyone who has criticised Karmichael Hunt should also apologise and eat their words because on that performance he’s a bona fide AFL midfielder.”

Then, of course, there was his famous performance against Richmond in Round 16 at Cazaly’s Stadium. Hunt fulfilled the dream of every kid to have ever played Aussie rules when he kicked the winning goal after the siren to give the Suns a sensational last-ditch victory. It was both a fairytale and a reward for his dedication to becoming a genuine AFL player.

Hunt was both modest and honest during his announcement yesterday.

“I left rugby league as the youngest player to play 100 games, the youngest player to do a lot of things and if I was focused on goals or accolades I would have stayed and tried to clock up 300. But the experience of playing AFL and doing something foreign to what I was doing was too much not to choose.”

It brings the issue back to a previously unconsidered point. No, Karmichael Hunt was never anything more than a good player. However, he left a sport in which he was dominant, aware of the criticism and jeering he would receive, to challenge himself. If we can congratulate him on anything, it is that bravery.

 

About Callum O'Connor

Here's to feelin' good all the time.

Comments

  1. Good piece Callum. KH was certainly no Issy, wandering lost and taking the cheque. I remember watching some of his 2012 games and he was a genuine Matt Priddis-lite inside grunt player at the clearances.
    Is it the body type or the training that makes players suitable for rugby v AFL and vice versa. The rugby codes require burst speed and body size but not endurance. They are 100 metre runners and shot putters. We are 1500 metre runners and high jumpers.
    KH seems a very genuine person. Thanks for the tribute, Callum.

  2. Peter Schumacher says

    I too hope that Karmichael Hunt leaves this part of his sporting career with the best wishes of all footy followers whatever the code. From what I can tell he gave his all to the Suns and certainly coach McKenna said he was an exemplary example to younger players at the club with his professional attitude to being the best player that he could be and that he was also a great person as well.

  3. Dave Brown says

    Obviously a mixed bag as a player – 44 games is not a massive tally (but is also 44 more than I’ve played). AFL would consider it a resounding success. That he was able to reach a level of sufficient competence and have the after the siren moment puts into the mind of every athletically talented kid in NSW and Qld that Aussie Rules is a viable option.

    The league player I would have loved to see give Aussie Rules a go is Billy Slater. I reckon he would be an amazing in and under / line breaking midfielder.

  4. According to Gillon (Gilligan works better) he made an “extraordinary contribution.” Apparently, he once kicked a goal. At one point during his AFL career he nearly reached an acceptable level of fitness.

    I guess a stand will soon be named in his honour.

  5. Yet another AFL recruit for rugby!

    He move will necessitate Issy moving to the wing for the Wallabies.

    Both boys went well playing footy.

    Saw Issy play for the Giants against the Pies – he smashed Cameron Wood in the ruck. Wood was just like a railway cup of tea – big and weak.

  6. Barkly St End says

    Special K did ok.

    he has two moments for the highlight reels, which is more than most of us.

    He was quite good with his hands at knee level, hopeless,in the air.

    By his own admission, genes were not on his side, he never had the tank to run out a full game.

    It’s fair to say he would never have played a game with anyone else, but given where he came from, he leaves our game with his head held high, he mixed it, and that’s good enough.

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