Karmichael Hunt has officially made the move to the NSW Waratahs for the 2019 Super Rugby season in a player swap deal.
The utility back went unused at the Reds last year after falling out of favour with coach Brad Thorn, who took a hardline stance in response to his issues off the field.
Instead of playing in Super Rugby, he was forced to play NRC and club rugby in Queensland.
The player swap with the Waratahs will see another utility back in Bryce Hegarty make the trip north to play for the Reds during the 2019 season.
Hunt has won the trust of Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson and will likely prove an important cog in the Waratahs backline this year, given he can play everywhere from 10 to 15.
Gibson said in a press release that the decision was not one the club have taken lightly.
“Today we welcome Karmichael to the NSW Waratahs team,” said Gibson.
“We acknowledge the off-field issues that Karmichael has faced in the past and today’s decision is one that as a team and a business, we have not taken lightly.
“We have made an informed decision after completing a thorough process by not only speaking with Karmichael, but also his family, his team mates and broader support network, as well as consulting our own staff, board, players, and extended support team.
“Karmichael has been very open and genuine with us about his off-field issues and his desire to turn things around, not only professionally but personally.”
Gibson also hinted at wanting to rotate players more throughout 2019 to ensure fatigue levels were managed more effectively.
“One of the findings out of 2018 season review is that we played our best players too much. Our strategy was we needed to improve the depth of our squad and Karmichael helps us with that,” said Gibson.
“I was pleased with what we saw from him throughout the NRC from both his attack and defence.”
This is the first big move since Rugby Australia announced they would aim for increased cooperation across Super Rugby clubs to ensure resources were being used correctly.
Hunt, by only playing club rugby and NRC last season, had his salary go to waste, and it’s understood Rugby Australia were keen to not let that happen again.
The back said he was thankful for the opportunity.
“The NSW Waratahs is a team steeped in history. They were one game away from making the final last year and have winning aspirations, I can’t wait to get back in to it,” said Hunt.
“It means a lot me that Daryl and the Waratahs have decided to give me another go, I’m ready to take this opportunity with both hands. Myself, my family and my friends are all excited for the Super Rugby season ahead.
“I’m always the first to admit that I’ve made mistakes. But the time away from the sport has been the most important thing that has happened to me.”
The Waratahs will play their first game of the new season against the Hurricanes on Saturday, February 16, while Hunt’s first game against the Reds will be in Round 4 at the SCG.