Karmichael Hunt gets rugby lifeline from NSW Waratahs
IN A boost for Australia's rugby depth, code-hopping sensation Karmichael Hunt is set to resume his Super Rugby career after being thrown a lifeline by the NSW Waratahs.
Banished from the Queensland Reds in 2018 under new coach Brad Thorn after his second drug-related incident since arriving at the club in 2015, Hunt stood no chance of playing any Super Rugby by remaining at the club despite being contracted until the end of 2019.
But after weeks of negotiations between the two clubs, the Rugby Union Players Association, Rugby Australia and Hunt's management, the 32-year-old will leave Queensland for the first time in his 15-year professional career and move to Sydney.
Similarly to Quade Cooper's departure to the Melbourne Rebels, Queensland Rugby Union will still pay part of Hunt's contract.
But they will get something in return for releasing Hunt, who was being paid $500,000 for sitting on the sidelines.
In a clear sign that Rugby Australia's new alignment policy is working, the move will result in talented Waratahs utility back Bryce Hegarty being traded to the Reds.
The respective moves are a win for all parties because the Reds need a utility back capable of starting, and Hegarty - who was stuck behind Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau - provides experience, pace and versatility.
But for the Waratahs to agree to let Hegarty go to the Reds they needed another player capable of filling the void, particularly with Daryl Gibson set to respect Rugby Australia's wishes and rest his three attacking weapons throughout the season in a bid to keep his Wallabies fresh for the World Cup.
And with six Tests under his belt, Hunt is exactly what the Waratahs need.
Hunt's deal is expected to be announced in early January.
His departure from the Reds closes the book on an unfilled four-year stint at the club.
Hunt was one of Brisbane's favourite sons after debuting at the tender age of 17 and winning a rugby league premiership with the Broncos in 2005, and there were high hopes the State of Origin back could make an immediate mark when he left the Gold Coast Suns in the AFL to sign with the Reds.
But like buying an old second-hand car, Hunt's career at the Reds was almost over before it started after he pleaded guilty to cocaine possession.
After surviving the axe, Hunt went on to play 32 games for the Reds but his career was hampered by multiple injuries in 2016 and 2017.
While cocaine charges were dropped earlier this year after a lack of evidence, the controversy was enough for Thorn - a former teammate of Hunt's at the Broncos - to farewell the dual international.