21 Jan 2019

Hunt given career lifeline

1:26 pm on 21 January 2019

The NSW Waratahs have thrown troubled cross-code star Karmichael Hunt a lifeline, signing him to a one-season Super Rugby deal.

Karmichael Hunt

Karmichael Hunt Photo: Photosport

A veteran of six Tests for the Wallabies, Hunt played no Super Rugby last year and was subsequently overlooked by Australia coach Michael Cheika after Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn refused to select him after a second drug-related incident.

"It means a lot me that Daryl (Gibson) and the Waratahs have decided to give me another go, I'm ready to take this opportunity with both hands," Hunt, admitting he was on his last career chance, said.

"I'm always the first to admit that I've made mistakes. But the time away from the sport has been the most important thing that has happened to me.

"It provided me with the opportunity to reassess why I was making bad decisions and work through all of that with my family and my psychologists.

"Spending most of last year away from rugby allowed me to recuperate physically and mentally.

"Now I'm ready for this new opportunity, I'm feeling better than ever and fresher than I've felt in years."

Hunt pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in 2015.

After a stellar 2017 rugby season, his world came crashing down when he was arrested that December over allegations of cocaine possession.

He was later cleared of those charges in court due to lack of evidence.

However, he was fined $10,000 by Rugby Australia and banned for four games as well as being placed in a 12 month targeted illicit drugs testing program.

Waratahs coach Gibson defended signing 32-year-old Hunt.

"We acknowledge the off-field issues that Karmichael has faced in the past and today's decision is one that as a team and a business, we have not taken lightly," he said

"We have made an informed decision after completing a thorough process by not only speaking with Karmichael, but also his family, his teammates and broader support network, as well as consulting our own staff, board, players, and extended support team.

"Karmichael has been very open and genuine with us about his off-field issues and his desire to turn things around, not only professionally but personally."

Hunt returned to playing in the second-tier national Rugby Championship toward the end of 2018.

"From a rugby perspective, Karmichael provides is a great fit for our squad, with the experienced playmaker comfortable playing at 12,13 or 15," Gibson said.

"One of the findings out of 2018 season review is that we played our best players too much.

"Our strategy was we needed to improve the depth of our squad and Karmichael helps us with that."