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Karmichael Neil Matthew Hunt (born 17 November 1986 in Auckland, New Zealand) is an Australian professional multi-code football player, currently playing Australian rules football for the newly formed Gold Coast Suns in the Australian Football League (AFL).
He was formerly best known as a rugby league player for the Brisbane Broncos of the National Rugby League (NRL). He primarily played in the fullback position, but has also played on the wing and at five-eighth and halfback. Hunt played in the NRL for Brisbane from 2004 to 2009, and was part of the Broncos' competition-winning team in 2006. He has represented the Queensland Maroons in the State of Origin series and the Australian Kangaroos at international level.
In July 2009, he signed a three year deal with the Gold Coast Football Club in the Australian rules football code beginning in 2011. In 2010, while contracted to the Gold Coast, he played a season with Biarritz Olympique in the Top 14 French rugby union competition.
On 29 July 2009, Hunt signed a deal to switch codes and play Australian rules football for the newly formed Gold Coast Football Club, which joined the AFL in the 2011 season. The deal, reputed to be worth over $3 million is subsidised by the AFL and includes a substantial component of AFL development and promotional responsibility. The move generated significant controversy in both the NRL and the AFL and received international media coverage.
At the commencement of his AFL contract in 2010, he became one of just three AFL players at the time to earn over a million a year, the others being Jonathan Brown and Chris Judd. He is the first player to appear in the senior grade of both the NRL and the AFL (or their historical equivalents).
The AFL's experiment was largely derided by AFL personalities throughout Hunt's early Australian rules career. Wayne Carey is quoted to have said that "I just think he's really going to struggle. I'm just not sure a rugby player - as good as he is - can do it." Tony Shaw was quoted in 2011 to have said "he just cannot play the game naturally and it won't work. Just say to him, 'Take your money, you've been fantastic for us', maybe see the year out, but I wouldn't be playing him very often any more." Paul Roos is quoted to have said that "a player of Karmichael Hunt's current ability would probably be worth only $100,000 in the AFL". Jason Akermanis is quoted to have said in reference to both Hunt and Israel Folau that "if they can't run and they can't handball - and we're only talking basics like kick, run, chase, handball and get body-to-body collisions - and can't get up to speed its going to be such a waste of time and money".
On 12 June 2010, Hunt played his first Australian rules football match for Victorian Football League team the Gold Coast in their heavy loss against the Coburg Tigers at the Highgate Recreation Reserve in Craigieburn, Victoria. Playing at full-forward Hunt had three shots at goal in the first quarter, two from free kicks. Hunt kicked two goals in quick succession after he was awarded a free kick for a late push from an opponent after his running goal in the goalsquare. After this he was quiet with few possessions and left the field with cramp in the third quarter.
In his second match against Frankston Football Club on 26 June 2010, Hunt was tried as a defender, playing fullback on a taller, heavier opponent. He drew some criticism for not getting any kicks and for an inability to read the play, however running a total around 8 kilometres during the game on and off the bench Hunt managed just a handful of possessions and tackles in his side's convincing win.
Hunt's coaching staff have speculated him to make an experimental shift into the midfield (as centreman or ruck rover), however he was again selected at fullback for the match against the Box Hill Hawks. In the match Hunt had just three kicks, three handpasses and two marks before straining his groin in the final minutes and missed following games through injury. In Cairns, Hunt had a breakthrough game against the Bendigo Bombers showing dramatic improvement. He followed the good form being named in the Gold Coast's best and clearly the best backman against the Sandringham Football Club, again playing in defence showing good run and carry skills with 15 disposals.
Hunt's Australian Football League pre-season competition debut was at Blacktown Olympic Park on 19 February 2011 in front of a crowd of 10,000. Playing at fullback, he was named among the side's best in the three point win against the Sydney Swans while playing on dual Brownlow Medallist Adam Goodes. In each of his two first pre-season matches, the second against the Greater Western Sydney Football Club, his performance statistics were consistent at six possessions and a tackle.
His first official AFL game was in the Suns' debut match in round two of the 2011 season against Carlton. He kicked his first AFL goal on 28 May 2011 against Geelong at Metricon Stadium. In the same match, however, he earned a one-week suspension for head-high contact to Geelong's Nathan Vardy.
Hunt's promising first season was rewarded by being named on the half-back flank in the Courier Mail 2011 Queensland Team of the Year. He followed this up by winning Gold Coast's inaugural Most Improved Player Award at the club's best and fairest awards on 9 September 2011.
He began his 2012 season solidly, named among the 3 best Gold Coast players in Round 3 at Metricon Stadium against Essendon with 9 second quarter possessions, earning praise from coach McKenna as well as laying a solid shepherd on Essendon's Angus Monfries.
“ anyone who has criticised Karmichael Hunt should also apologise and eat their words because on that performance he's a bona fide AFL midfielder. ” —North Melbourne coach Chris Scott at press conference following the round 5 match against the Gold Coast
Hunt silenced the critics with outstanding form in round 4 against Brisbane. Again being named in Gold Coast's best excelling in the midfield with a career best 20 possession display. In the following match against North Melbourne, Hunt stepped up in the absence of Gary Ablett again in the side's best with 16 possessions, prompted North Melbourne coach Chris Scott to comment that "... anyone who has criticised Karmichael Hunt should also apologise and eat their words because on that performance he's a bona fide AFL midfielder." Hunt took to the next level with a third best in his side 22 possession display including an important goal against Fremantle in round 5. Going into round 6, Greater Western Sydney coach Kevin Sheedy commented that the in form Hunt, rather than star player Ablett was the key threat in the match and would assign defensive taggers to him. Despite another consistent 16 disposal game, Hunt struggled to break the tag and some media commentators suggested that he had been outperformed by fellow league to Aussie Rules convert Israel Folau.