Rugby league now a legitimate AFL recruiting ground

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    Karmichael Hunt’s form of late has silenced plenty of doubters. Oddly, those that guaranteed us he’d fail are suddenly nowhere to be found.

    He now looks like an actual footballer out on the field and is using his considerable presence to Gold Coast’s advantage by laying tackles and damaging, yet legal, bumps.

    Former Hawthorn champion Dermott Brereton says he’s the most feared player on the Gold Coast list. It’s hard to disagree.

    That role was originally designated to Campbell Brown, a premiership player no less, but in just his second season Hunt has taken over and made it his own.

    But this isn’t just a story about a big body throwing his weight around. Karmichael is winning his own footy – reaching 20 disposals in two of his past three games – and creating – he averages 2.3 inside 50s a game.

    Sure, these numbers could be better. But I’ve always looked at Hunt for what he actually is, not what the size of his pay packet is.

    And as someone in just his third season of playing the game at any level, those numbers are eerily comparable to the first six games of Jim Stynes in 1988, his third season in Melbourne and second at AFL level.

    The final part of Hunt’s game which has been so noticeable is how he manages to lift his teammates. It’s obvious they have great affection for him and it seems whenever he pulls off a big play – like that bump on Angus Monfries against Essendon – it adds to the confidence of the whole playing group.

    All of this led to me asking a peculiar question over the weekend: are there other AFL clubs that could use a Karmichael Hunt?

    After a bit of thought, the answer was yes.

    With taggers back in vogue this season, those that can physically intimidate are even more of a sought-after commodity right now. Surely there a number of clubs who wouldn’t mind a hard man to throw in the midfield to ensure opponents don’t get an easy run at it.

    Sides in the middle of their premiership window might have other priorities than developing a player from a non-football background, but there are plenty who could use a Hunt-type player.

    After all, while the Suns aren’t the best team around, it remains that they are a better team with Hunt playing than they are with him on the sidelines. That’s the true sign that he’s bringing something to the table.

    The AFL’s days of poaching big name rugby league players, at this stage, seem over. It was a unique set of circumstances that led to Hunt going to the Suns and Israel Folau heading to the GWS Giants, and both moves would never have happened had the AFL not stumped up the cash it did.

    However, it might prove to be the case that fringe NRL players identified as suitable for a switch become the target of AFL clubs.

    It might be that if Folau does not re-sign with the Giants at the end of his current contract, the temptation for the AFL to become involved may again re-emerge.

    Also, players lingering below the NRL level might be willing to jump at the chance to land an AFL contract.

    The latter situation would seem to be the most likely. This already happens in basketball with players struggling to land an NBL contract and it definitely helps that players without recent Aussie Rules experience can be signed as an extra rookie.

    Some would no doubt use this happening as an argument for how “AFL’s such an easy game to play”. But those people would be showing enormous disregard for the work Karmichael Hunt has done just to get to this point.

    The message here isn’t that’s it’s easy, but rather that it’s possible. And there can be significant rewards at the end of it.

    One thing’s for sure, though: if what Karmichael Hunt is bringing to the Gold Coast Suns continues, rugby league players can absolutely be considered a legitimate recruiting option.

    Publicity stunt? Not anymore.

    Michael DiFabrizio
    Michael DiFabrizio

    Michael DiFabrizio is based in Mildura, Victoria. He has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, leading to appearances on ABC News 24 and in the Age. Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelDiFab.

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    The Crowd Says (212)

    • May 9th 2012 @ 9:59am
      damo said | May 9th 2012 @ 9:59am | ! Report

      *Bundusleaga and other powerful comps. there are Liverpool die hards in Numibia i know i’ve seen them comment of Facebook fan pages.

      my point is once a league reaches its peek it begins to have a bigger appeal than the SPORT does in foreign lands. AFL is headed this way. The first step to international success might not be spreading the game but spreading the product. My dream is in ten years kids in New York will be wearing the future equivilant of Switchbacks with Adelaide Crows, Carlton Blues and ‘any one but the Magpies’ on them despite never once playing Aussie Rules.

      • May 9th 2012 @ 10:16am
        Jay said | May 9th 2012 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        errr.. very very unlikely. Australia doesn’t have that much of a cultural impact on the world. Not just AFL, its very unlikley that we’ll every see a Souths jersey, Waratahs jersey or Carlton jumper on an American kid.

        But the hoard of Miami heat and Barcelona kits here will continue to grow.

        • May 9th 2012 @ 12:44pm
          oikee said | May 9th 2012 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

          Thats right, and as the international arts madirins told Melbourne in 2008, your not on the same level as New York, Berlin Paris or London, as a matter of fact, most have not even seen your name mentioned in the international pages. Unlike the London Broncos. 🙂

      • May 9th 2012 @ 2:45pm
        Norm said | May 9th 2012 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

        Sorry, Damo, the NY Aussie Rules club that plays in the NAAFL is already the Magpies 🙁

    • May 9th 2012 @ 10:41am
      Matt_S said | May 9th 2012 @ 10:41am | ! Report

      Do AFL fans know former AFL Lions player Rhan Hooper now plays rugby league for Norths Tigers in the Ipswich RL competition. Just out of interest.

      • Roar Guru

        May 9th 2012 @ 12:29pm
        The Cattery said | May 9th 2012 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

        I wish him all the best. He was certainly known for his pace, and I suspect he’s had plenty of exposure to League as well, being a Queenslander. He’s 177cm tall, which is on the short side for AFL, but at the end of the day, by all accounts he wasn’t a big fan of the insane amount of running required to play AFL level, i.e. wasn’t sufficiently committed to the strict training regimes. He’s actually young enough to pursue League, and I think he’d be pretty good at it, if he can add a bit of bulk, retain his pace, his low centre of gravity would be to his advantage.

        • May 10th 2012 @ 2:55pm
          Jaceman said | May 10th 2012 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

          Did he not have disciplinary issues as Cat alludes too with training?? Talented but erratic from memory. Plenty of ex RL players play social RU after their career is finished as well so I’m not sure what your point sis again MAtt S?

      • May 9th 2012 @ 12:29pm
        Michael/Brisbane said | May 9th 2012 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

        No I didn’t know that, is he any good?

    • May 9th 2012 @ 10:57am
      Macca said | May 9th 2012 @ 10:57am | ! Report


    • May 9th 2012 @ 12:09pm
      stabpass said | May 9th 2012 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

      The battle for players has been going on between RL and AF, and for that matter the other football codes for eons, but there is a few places where the football codes overlap more than others , the Riverina and the ACT have been a couple, and the GC is another, the northern suburbs of Sydney and even Brisbane itself.

      The northern suburbs of Sydney sees the AFL and RU both competing for athletes, the Riverina sees both the AFL and RL overlapping and both accepted with many kids playing both, whilst the ACT sees all 3 oval ball codes reasonably strong and kids swapping and changing.

      Most of QLD, in particular the GC, Cairns and slightly less so Brisbane have very good grass roots AFL participation, although less than RL, they still get their share of good athletes/footballers playing.

      The northern AFL clubs are rightly focussing on their academies, and the kids in them, and ultimately this will strengthen the local club competitions, which in turn will get more kids involved.

      When you look where their is good overlap between the codes , you will notice that whilst the GC does, Western Sydney does not !, GWS is the AFL’S biggest challenge by a mile.

      • Roar Guru

        May 9th 2012 @ 12:38pm
        The Cattery said | May 9th 2012 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

        Very true stabpass – for 100 years people have been turning out in either the VFL or NSWRL, hailing from Southern NSW, who grew up playing both games, far, far too many to mention.

        An interesting devlopment this year as been the addition of two Sydney clubs into the NEAFL. Last year the Eastern conference of the NEAFL consisted of the Swans reserves, GWS and five Canberra clubs, and this year the extra two clubs brings the confernece numbers up to 9, which is pretty good – it’s been a very, very long time since the old Canberra clubs have played in a comp with 9 teams.

        I originally thought the two Sydney clubs woudl not be competitive against the Canberra clubs, but they have proven me wrong, they’ve been quite good, and that says a bit about where footy is heading in Sydney a couple of tiers below AFL level.

        • May 10th 2012 @ 2:58pm
          Jaceman said | May 10th 2012 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

          Didnt the Swans beat Syd Uni last year by 200 points – I’m intrigued how Uni were strong last year – did they recruit heavily like the Union mob do so they dominate the Shute Shield…

    • Roar Rookie

      May 9th 2012 @ 12:41pm
      ItsCalled AussieRules said | May 9th 2012 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

      Karmichael is a great athlete and has really applied himself to the task.
      He is also getting more than twice the money he was offered by the Broncos, so I can’t see him returning to rugby league just yet..

      I wouldn’t say that he is proving to be an AFL success story on the strength of one game.
      All he is good at is what he was good at at rugby league – knocking people off their feet.
      And yes they do learn how to catch and kick in rugby league too.

      I don’t think the AFL is prepared to splash out that sort of money for rugby league players, because I know there have been a few who have made contact with AFL player agents based on the amount of money Karmichael and Israel were offered.
      There are no more deals like that on offer.

      And realistically, despite all the praise about how much publicity it has generated and how it will convert rugby league followers to AFL, are the Suns and Giants games packing them out with ex-NRL fans and how many rugby league converts have they got.

      • Roar Guru

        May 9th 2012 @ 12:52pm
        The Cattery said | May 9th 2012 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

        No one’s really chasing converts, I suspect the AFL is more interested in fence sitters or those that aren’t overly attached to any sport or sporting team.

        The real point of the exercise is ensuring that the AFL is still holding its current position in Australia in 154 years time.

        • May 9th 2012 @ 3:45pm
          Jace said | May 9th 2012 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

          Ian, Cattery, Matt et al

          Do not indulge ICAR now or ever again in the future. As a soccer person, she is here only to stir up AFL followers.

          • May 9th 2012 @ 8:39pm
            BigAl said | May 9th 2012 @ 8:39pm | ! Report

            Now that’s terribly unfair . . . to women.

          • Roar Rookie

            May 10th 2012 @ 12:14am
            ItsCalled AussieRules said | May 10th 2012 @ 12:14am | ! Report

            There there Jace, don’t carry on like a schoolgirl.

            As it says above “The Roar – Your Sports Opinion” – everyone is entitled to one, aren’t they.

            You might be better advised to discuss the topic, rather than attack people who don’t agree with you.

      • May 9th 2012 @ 12:54pm
        Matt F said | May 9th 2012 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

        True, it is early days. That being said he is averaging 16 touches a game so far this season as opposed to 8 last season so he’s shown very good improvement. He’s certainly doing a lot better then I thought he would have at this stage.

        I disagree about the publicity bit though. It may not have led to sell-out crowds but I would say that Folau has probably generated about 1/2 the publicity of the Giants so far this season, at least in the Sydney media, and probably a lot more then 1/2 last year. Without him they wouldn’t have got anywhere near as much coverage as they have. The crowds may not be massive, but it’s a fair argument that they could be even worse without him (and probably Hunt at GC as well.)

      • May 9th 2012 @ 12:54pm
        oikee said | May 9th 2012 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

        I think Karmichael has burnt his bridges, he wont ever go back to the Broncos, he was replaced by the now NZ fullback.
        To be honest, a much better player than K my personal opinion.
        I think Hunt was a one off myself, he always was a bit shifty, if that makes sense. Most league players would not go across anyhow, the ones that do are probably welcome to go. Glad we keep Inglis, he was the one i was worried about, as for Issy, we have his brothers and cousins.

        I think the Polynesians like their food to much to worry about running marathons and eating the right food.

        • May 9th 2012 @ 4:16pm
          Toa said | May 9th 2012 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

          “Burnt his bridges”…….please explain…..shifty?…… as in similar to everyone else leaving the broncos e.g. Wayne Bennett?

      • May 9th 2012 @ 2:00pm
        Ian Whitchurch said | May 9th 2012 @ 2:00pm | ! Report


        You dont watch a lot of footy, do you ?

        The average disposal efficiency of the AFL is 71.8%. Hunt is at 80%.

        Of players who have played all six games, he is 32nd for disposal efficiency. Five players above him on that list have more tackles. Seventeen have more disposals.

        Two of those players have more clearances.

        Of all AFL players, he is 46th in clearances, and third in his team behind Ablett and Swallow.

        If you want an inside midfielder who will get the ball and efficiently clear it, then you simply want Karmichael Hunt.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 10th 2012 @ 12:49am
          ItsCalled AussieRules said | May 10th 2012 @ 12:49am | ! Report

          if you look at this stats table:

          Hunt isn’t doing too well in terms of tackles, kicks, tries, metres gained,hit-ups, off-loads, line breaks and field goals is he?

          • Roar Guru

            May 10th 2012 @ 1:05am
            The_Wookie said | May 10th 2012 @ 1:05am | ! Report

            that has what to do with his AFL career? And its not just one game…its his season in 2012. Knowledgeable watchers always knew he was going to take time to develop, and he has and is continuing. Id love someone with his hardness at the ball at Carlton. I think its one of the key ingredients we are missing at the moment

            • May 10th 2012 @ 8:02am
              Ian Whitchurch said | May 10th 2012 @ 8:02am | ! Report

              His hardness off the ball would be handy as well.

              Heres his “legitimate shirtfront” on Monfries.

              • May 10th 2012 @ 9:10am
                Macca said | May 10th 2012 @ 9:10am | ! Report

                Given the AFL’s desire to outlaw the bump in general how much longer will this be an asset?

              • May 10th 2012 @ 9:20am
                Ian Whitchurch said | May 10th 2012 @ 9:20am | ! Report


                Stop telling porkies. The MRP gave the incident two thumbs up.

                “Contact between Gold Coast’s Karmichael Hunt and Essendon’s Angus Monfries from the fourth quarter of Saturday’s match was assessed. Suns’ player Josh Caddy has the ball and is attempting to move upfield, as he is pursued by Monfries. Hunt, who is stationary, steps into the path of Monfries to block for his teammate. There was no high contact made and it was the view of the panel the force used was not unreasonable in the circumstances. No further action was taken.”


              • May 10th 2012 @ 9:32am
                Macca said | May 10th 2012 @ 9:32am | ! Report

                Ian I didn’t say that this bump was illegal, I said that the AFL are trying to outlaw the bump. Jarrad Waite said exactly that on before the game earlier in the year and many other players have reiterated.

                If hunt had done exactly the same thing but Monfries had bobbed his head slightly in his running motion and Hunt had made contact with his head (all be it accidental) he would of been suspended. I think the AFL are on record saying you bump at your own risk.

                I don’t agree with this at all, in fact I am quite against it but it is the environment we find ourselves in, the bumper can do everything correct and have perfect technique but if there is even accidental contact with the head look out.

              • May 10th 2012 @ 10:08am
                Ian Whitchurch said | May 10th 2012 @ 10:08am | ! Report


                Again, stop telling pork pies. As Hunt was stationary, if Monfries had tried to head butt him, the MRP would have gone after Monfries for initiating the head contact … and if you check the Swallow hit, Hunt is utterly amazing in that he can rotate his body out of the way to avoid head contact in a stunningly short time (and we’re talking mezzotempo, frame-by-frame stuff).

              • May 10th 2012 @ 11:26am
                Macca said | May 10th 2012 @ 11:26am | ! Report

                Ian – There were many people who’s art was the drop kick, where are they now. I hope Hunt deos continue to get away with good bumps but the clock is ticking, no matter how skilled he is eventually an accident will happen.

                As for him revolutionising the game, dream on. Byron Pickett was pretty good at dihing out a bump and the only change it made was tighter rules on how you can bump.

                And if you want to drop Carrazzo, a player who while keeping the likes of Martin, Cotchin, Black & Penddlebury completely out of the game while racking up an average of 30 possessions for the first three games this year and who beats hunt in clearances (from half the games) tackles disposal efficiency and just about any stat you wish to name then you have either shown your bias or lack of football knowledge.

                As for not having to many midfielders, ask Mclean, Ellard, Joseph and the many other midfielders toiling away in the 2’s for the blues that question. Or even Gibbs, Betts, Garlett, Yarran or Lucas who only get a minimal run in the midfield.

              • May 10th 2012 @ 11:34am
                Macca said | May 10th 2012 @ 11:34am | ! Report

                Ian – Here are the stats comparison Carrazzo having played 3 games and Hunt 6

                Carrazzo Disposal 91, Marks 10, tackles 10, goals 1, clearances 25

                Hunt Disposals 96, Marks, 14, Tackles 21, goals 1, Clearances 20

                SO Carrazzo averages roughly double Hunt on possessions, marks, goals and clearances and about the same of tackles. Gee you really value the occasional good bump.

              • May 10th 2012 @ 6:28pm
                BigAl said | May 10th 2012 @ 6:28pm | ! Report

                This just can’t be a legitimate ‘bump’ by Hunt! Should NOT be legal for Hunt or anyone to do.

                Monfries didn’t have the ball, and his eyes were solely on the contest – i.e the man with the ball – and then Hunt blind-sided him !

                That sort of thing was big in the 60s ( Brereton’s gutless hit on Van der Haar) and hopefully has gone from the game.

                It should be made clear to Hunt that this is NOT a legal tactic – hell it’s not even legal in Rugby League ! ( obstruction I think ? )

              • May 10th 2012 @ 8:58pm
                ManInBlack said | May 10th 2012 @ 8:58pm | ! Report

                Big Al –
                Brereton and Van Der Haar weren’t doing it in the ’60s!!

                re Monfries – his lack of periferal vision is astounding given that Hunt really just stood his ground – it’s not as if Hunt ran from outside the play to get there.

                I thought Kosi showed limited awareness when he was cleaned up a couple of years back – but, for Monfries here – it’s very different.

                What I can’t help but ponder – is the pace of the game tiring guys so much that their awareness due fatigue is putting them infar greater danger than any particular tactic.

                btw – providing a shepherd/block in Aust Footy is a key component of taking a ‘hit’ for your team mate which is central to the ethic of the game – i.e. 1%’s and ‘go when it’s your turn’.

            • May 10th 2012 @ 10:18am
              Macca said | May 10th 2012 @ 10:18am | ! Report

              Whatever Ian I’ll leave you to your delusion, those of us who are living in reality know you bump at your own risk so good luck to Hunt as long as he keeps avoiding the head I look forward to seeing him lay many a good shirtfront but I would suggest it is only a matter of time before he accidentally hits the head a gets done for a number of weeks.

              By the way you never did tell me which of the Carlton midfield you would drop to squeeze Hunt in?

              • May 10th 2012 @ 11:05am
                Ian Whitchurch said | May 10th 2012 @ 11:05am | ! Report


                The reason Hunt will revolutionise the way AFL footy is played is that just like players have elite kicking, and Cloke is an elite contested mark, Hunt is elite at the art of the hit.

                This recognition that a hip and shoulder is an essential skill to turn a game is something we’ve lost, and some players will be able to do it well enough to both flatten the opposing player and avoid a stray head, and some wont. The ones that wont will avoid it, just like players with crap foot skills are trained to handpass rather than kick.

                The ability to draw a tagger into being lined up by Hunt is the next stage of tactical development for the Suns.

                Oh, and personally, I’d be happy to drop Carazzo for Hunt, as Hunt has more upside, is three years younger and dishes out rather than receives punishment – but you’d be better off being happy to have the extra AFL-standard midfield, and rotating players in and out of the midfield, as the truth is, these days you cant have too many mids.

              • May 11th 2012 @ 9:38am
                micka said | May 11th 2012 @ 9:38am | ! Report

                Id drop the likes of Bower, put someone like armfield running out of half back and have Hunt as a nugget providing space and support for Judd in contests

                If I was gonna do it.

                Bower would be no loss.

              • May 11th 2012 @ 9:47am
                Macca said | May 11th 2012 @ 9:47am | ! Report

                Micka – I am no Bower fan either but Bower is really taking Laidler’s spot as the third tall, if laidler was fit Bower wouldn’t get a game.

                Secondly Armfield couldn’t play on the third tall, he already spends a significant portion either being a running defender or defensive forward so you can’t really say that you take him out of the midfield and put Hunt in,

                A thirdly the blues tried with McLean to have a “nugget providing space for Judd” but he can’t get a game because the likes of Curnow, Robinson, Carrazzo, Scotland et el do enough around the stoppages and provide much more in the run and spread dept. In this day and age with a quality midfield you can’t just be an inside player.

    • May 9th 2012 @ 1:15pm
      Tony said | May 9th 2012 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

      Micheal ,
      even though I love both code’s, Iv’e
      played mainly Aussie Rule’s
      I’m really getting excited to see Izzy and K
      find there feet,I remember reading in the
      Telegraph 2yr’s ago about Jarrod Hayne
      watching with interest how the boy’s went
      Saying he might switch over to try A.F.L
      If he did he would join other Pacific Island boys,Wayne Schwass,David Roden Nic Natanui ,Donald Dickie and Aaron Edwards plus Izzy and K go the A.F.L more brothers playing this mighty game more younger Brother’s playing it for many year’s to come…….
      “GO BLUE’S”

      • Roar Guru

        May 9th 2012 @ 8:45pm
        The Cattery said | May 9th 2012 @ 8:45pm | ! Report

        I was just watching the repeat of AFL Insider this evening and they had Aaron Edwards on. He has kicked 13.3 for the season, which is a pretty good conversion rate for a big forward, often shooting from 40 to 50m out from goal. He went through his routine for set shots, with some pretty good tips I thought.

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