The chances of Karmichael Hunt ending his football career back at rugby league have diminished sharply, with the AFL convert tied long-term to Gold Coast.
Hunt has ended speculation about his future by signing a contract extension with the Suns that will take him through to the end of the 2014 season, when he will be 27.
He will also continue to have an ambassador’s role with the AFL and that, combined with his Suns contract, reportedly takes his football earnings to more than $1 million per year.
Hunt’s switch from league in 2009 has proved a massive promotional boost for the AFL with their expansion into south-east Queensland.
The former Brisbane Bronco said he never considered a switch back to league.
“Obviously there was a lot of interest out there but in no way did I entertain it or even ask about it (a return to rugby league),” he said.
“It was just up to my manager, the club and the AFL to get the deal done and thankfully they want me to stay and I’m looking forward to the future.”
Hunt is settled on the Gold Coast and his wife is expecting a baby, but he said that was not the main reason he decided to stay with the Suns.
“If I wasn’t enjoying my time on the Gold Coast and enjoying AFL, there’d be no point staying just because we’re having a baby and sticking by our family,” he said.
“But it makes it even more special that we are having a little one and we can stay on the Gold Coast and have our parents just up the road in Brisbane which will make it a lot easier.”
Now Hunt has made a long-term AFL commitment, the only move he wants to make is into the Suns midfield.
Hunt played 16 games last year in the Suns’ debut season, mainly in defence, and he proved the code switch was a lot more than a publicity stunt.
Gold Coast have also elevated him to their leadership group this season.
The Suns are hopeful Hunt can steadily spend more time on the ball this season and he has shed noticeable upper-body weight to help boost his running endurance.
“During the off-season, I’ve gained a bit of nutrition knowledge and really knuckled down,” Hunt said.
“Before Christmas, I got down to 90-91kg which is optimal for me at this point … and I really feel better – light on my feet and I feel better out on the field for it.
“I can’t really say whether I will be running out for full games but, fingers crossed, I will be set for that when the time comes.”
Suns coach Guy McKenna praised Hunt for his determination and ability to learn.
He is confident Hunt has a solid future as an onballer.
“It’s the way he’s designed aerobically – he’s such a powerful athlete,” McKenna said.
“He’s probably more akin to playing through the midfield in the modern game.