Karmichael Hunt’s AFL story is still being told but it’s been a ripping read so far in the opinion of Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna.
The Suns’ coach leapt to the defence of the former rugby league star on Wednesday following comments Hunt should be allowed to leave the AFL and his time in the code had been a failure.
Prominent Melbourne journalist Caroline Wilson said on Monday that Hunt’s time in the sport had been exposed as a “cynical dash for cash” and was fizzling to a disappointing end.
Since switching codes, Hunt has made 43 appearances for the Suns, highlighted by a winning goal after the siren against Richmond in 2012.
The past 12 months haven’t been so rosy, however.
Doubts over his ability to hold onto a first-team spot as the Suns’ brigade of youngsters matured were first raised last season as Hunt made just nine appearances.
An injury-marred pre-season hasn’t helped and Hunt has found himself stuck in the club’s reserves as the Suns start 2014 with four wins from their first six matches.
With his contract up at season’s end, rumours abound that NRL clubs are trying to lure the former Queensland and Australian representative back to the 13-man code.
McKenna says fitness is the only reason Hunt is not in the team and has insisted the 27-year-old remains firmly part of his plans.
But even if Hunt never plays another AFL game, McKenna says it’s unfair to undersell his achievements.
“It’s a bit rough for people from afar to start speaking up,” McKenna said.
“When he kicked that goal after the siren against Richmond, all the commentary was he’s made it, he’s done it and now, all of a sudden – for people to turn because it’s an easy thing to say – I don’t think that’s doing themselves justice.
“To play three elite levels of sport and what he’s been able to achieve is massive.”
McKenna has also dismissed claims there’s no chance of Hunt playing for the Suns beyond 2014, saying the midfielder’s race is far from run and done.
“There’s no finishing line there,” he said.
“Karmichael has got to 40-odd games and I’m sure he’d like to get 50 games just like he’d like to get to 100 games.
“The race is still on. The fire in him is still there.”