With Karmicheal Hunt revealing he has no plans to return to league, and Israel Folau emerging as a rare marketing commodity and dead-eye dick, the question must now be asked of our code jumpers: will they one day be regarded as two of Australia’s best sportsmen?
The question is purely speculation, but I think it’s timely. All of the talk centred around them to date has been: can they succeed, or how long will the experiment take to fail?
But really we should be lording their achievements already. Both represented their respective league teams to the highest level and at Origin, and one is an international success.
For my mind, the gamble in drafting them has already paid off for both the players and their clubs. After just one year at AFL level, Hunt has shown as much promise as any highly rated draftee – and were it not for his circumstances, we would be talking about his potential for being an elite player.
I know that’s a premature claim, maybe even a little extreme, but I genuinely believe the man can be a strong contender in a growing Suns line-up, once his preferred spot is figured out and his game instincts improve.
Folau was known as one of Australia’s young shining stars in sports before he became known only as a code jumper. And really, he deserves this title again. Were he not an ex-NRL player and working for AFL selection, there would be some serious attention on him from clubs as a late round pick. His size, fitness and remarkable long kicking ability (which probably came as a shock even to him) would have made him potential roughy in the draft.
This is all mute conjecture when we factor in the pair’s respective ages and Hunt’s seemingly chronic cramping late in games, but it’s worth discussing.
If Folau keeps up the way he is, he could be a valuable tall forward for GWS Giants, and thanks to his age, has a longer career prospectus than Hunt. In my humble opinion, he should be the next hard hitting tackling machine operating at the feet of Sam Day and Charly Dixon as a medium forward/rover.
In two to three years time, when both GWS and Gold Coast are looking finals bound and the two ‘code jumpers’ are in their teams’ best 22s, I hope that the talk turns from how much they’re paid, whether they’re just marketing tools and, importantly, whether they’ll stay in the code (“because they’ve switched once they’ll do it again,” to quote some of the ‘gurus’ I’ve discussed this with) and we start asking the question: are they up there with the best?
To represent two codes at top level (three in Hunt’s case) and be successful is a feat no other Australian athlete has achieved.
Before the comments come screaming in, I am well aware that Hunt is a Kiwi by birth and Folau Tongan. But the fact that they have played their top level sports here means that we can, rightly, regard them as Australian sportsmen, and, importantly, serves as an example of the opportunities Australian sports can offer.
These two should be seen as more than just the topic of puff opinion pieces like this one. They should be stars of the future, and remembered in Australia’s sporting pantheon as some of our greats.
They should serve as examples to young sportsmen and women from all backgrounds, that your achievements are only limited by your goals, and your goals only limited by your imagination.