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Football world in shock at league defection -

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Football world in shock at league defection

Simon Santow reported this story on Wednesday, July 29, 2009 12:50:00

PETER CAVE: Rugby League fans and followers of AFL are absorbing the news of a high profile
defection between the codes.

International and Queensland representative league player, Karmichael Hunt, has announced he's
joining Australian Rules.

The Broncos star will turn out for AFL newcomer Gold Coast as it prepares to enter the big league
in 2011.

As Simon Santow reports, the deal is as much about promoting the club as anything else.

SIMON SANTOW: Karmichael Hunt has one of the highest profiles in the game of rugby league.

An electrifying back with speed and skills to burn, he's represented his state and country since he
was a teenager.

Now at just 22, Hunt is turning his back on the code to return to a game he'd dabbled in as a
junior growing up in Queensland.

KARMICHAEL HUNT: First off I'd like to say I'm pretty excited with the opportunity that is in front
of me - I'll be become an elite AFL athlete for the Gold Coast Football Club in 2011. My time at
the Broncos has been illustrious. I have enjoyed every moment of it. I have been turning up to
every training session I could since I was 17.

I just felt that it was time for a new challenge.

SIMON SANTOW: He says the approach came from the Gold Coast AFL team and wasn't his idea.

KARMICHAEL HUNT: They offered the opportunity for me to, I guess, challenge myself in a different
code and I've let it sit with me for the last couple of months and I only decided recently that
that was a path that I wanted to take.

SIMON SANTOW: For a long time, Karmichael Hunt has shown signs of dissatisfaction with life in the
National Rugby League.

Troubles off the field, involving alcohol and women, had kept his name in the headlines for more
than just his abilities with a football.

Most commentators had expected him to switch to rugby union and a team in either Japan or France.

His deal with the Gold Coast will still allow a stint in Japan but after that his focus will be on
learning the skills needed to be an elite AFL player for a club starting from scratch in the big
time.

KARMICHAEL HUNT: It is an exciting time in my life and I'm looking forward to 2011.

SIMON SANTOW: The club denies it's a publicity stunt.

It sees Hunt's role on field as an exciting midfielder and a role model for his team-mates.

But there's no doubting the signing is a marketing coup for the fledgling club.

BRIAN WALDRON: Karmichael Hunt is as high profile as anyone in Queensland sports so we have now got
him on the coast and yeah, from a marketing point of view I am sure there is enormous equity in him
provided there can be miss-, some forgiveness for what has been, to be honest, a fairly chequered
background off field.

SIMON SANTOW: Brian Waldron has experience with both codes.

The former boss of the St Kilda AFL club is now the CEO with rugby league team, the Melbourne
Storm.

BRIAN WALDRON: I don't think anyone thought Karmichael was doing anything but heading overseas to
play rugby in Japan and I see he is still being permitted to do that. He'll just come back I think
mid-year and take up what promises to be a very challenging period in his sporting career.

SIMON SANTOW: How difficult would it be for an athlete to transfer between these two games?

BRIAN WALDRON: Well, we'll find out. That is the best thing about it, I think. There certainly has
been a lot of players who have played either code who have had a history of playing with the other
code as a youngster and Karmichael is one of those. Interestingly he is a Kiwi by birth so he makes
it even more mysterious mix, doesn't he.

Look, it is a big challenge. I mean certainly playing the role that he has played in rugby league
as a fullback, he has shown an ability to catch and kick the ball and to read the ball out of an
opposition player's hands, I think it is the peripheral issues that he may have to get used to.

Certainly on a rugby league field, you know where your opponents are coming from. In an AFL game it
is far more difficult to be appreciative of those. It can come from your blind side or from behind
which you are not used to but you know, he'll get his chance.

I am sure everyone, when a bit of emotion cools down, will wish him well and watch with interest.

PETER CAVE: Former AFL administrator and now the CEO of the Melbourne Storm rugby league team,
Brian Waldron, ending that report from Simon Santow.