Karmichael Hunt has his confidence back and is ready to make his mark on rugby union, according to Queensland Reds coach Richard Graham.
The disgraced code-hopper proved one of the biggest letdowns in what was a truly lousy Super Rugby season for the Reds this year, unable to extend his talents to a third sport because of persistent injury and his highly-publicised drug scandal.
Hunt was arrested on charges of supplying cocaine in February, copping a $2500 fine from the Southport Magistrates Court, a $30,000 fine from the Queensland and Australian rugby unions, a six-week suspension from playing and also costing him the Reds vice-captaincy.
It represented a staggering fall from grace for one of Australia’s biggest sporting names, but a contrite Hunt copped it on the chin and has well and truly moved on from the drama.
Having failed to sufficiently convince Wallabies coach Michael Cheika of his worth during the Super Rugby season, the National Rugby Championship proved a blessing for the 29-year-old utility back.
Hunt only missed one match for Brisbane City on their way to clinching a second successive title, scoring five tries and doing enough to convince Graham he is poised to become a significant player for the Reds in 2016.
“He just needed gametime,” Graham said.
“Noone’s ever doubted the quality of footballer (he is), but changing codes and particularly coming from AFL after five years, there was always going to be a transition.
“He certainly approached it well in pre-season and then there was the incident.
“But I think the NRC has given him a level of confidence and a better understanding and feel for the game.”
Graham said he was impressed with Hunt’s application during the first week of Queensland’s pre-season program.
“I think everyone here has dealt with him and understands that he’s very keen to do the best in anything he does,” he said.
“His approach over the past couple of days has been excellent.”
Hunt spent the majority of the NRC playing as a fullback but, following the recruitment of Japanese World Cup sensation Ayumu Gorumaru, is set to play inside centre for Queensland next year.
However, he could start the season in the No.15 jersey depending on Gorumaru’s condition when he arrives following a condensed Top League season early in the new year.
Hunt failed to nail down a position in his first season with the Reds, having been thrown into the deep end at flyhalf in the early part of the season due to an injury to the now-departed Quade Cooper.