Hunt in shock switch to Aussie Rules

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New Zealand-born Brisbane rugby league star Karmichael Hunt says he's very excited after signing a three-year deal with the new Gold Coast AFL franchise in a sensational code switch.

The Gold Coast announced today that Hunt would join them in May next year after exploring an option to play a stint of rugby union overseas.

The 22-year-old will be the first rugby league international to play Australian Rules football at the highest level in a move which will rock the National Rugby League (NRL).

"I just thought it was time for a new challenge," said Hunt, who will play out the remainder of the 2009 NRL season with the Broncos.

"It's an exciting time in my life and I'm looking forward to 2011.

" ... If I had to leave Brisbane then I preferred to change codes rather than change teams as I did not want to play against the Brisbane Broncos.

"For me this is about the challenge of playing AFL at the highest level.

"The Gold Coast Football Club has given me a great opportunity to be part of its journey to AFL in 2011.

"I played AFL as a teenager and I am really excited by the challenge to change codes and still play at the elite level and for a Queensland team in a national competition.

"I can't wait."

The move will intensify the fierce turf war between the strongest football codes in Australia, with rugby league in danger of suffering further raids on its most talented players, especially if Hunt makes a successful transition.

Fellow test players Greg Inglis, Billy Slater and Israel Folau are other obvious targets for AFL clubs.

Hunt played some Australian Rules as a schoolboy in Brisbane, attracting the attention of Queensland AFL scouts, before debuting for the Broncos as a 17-year-old in 2004.

The Auckland-born fullback has since played 10 State of Origin matches for Queensland and 11 tests for Australia.

Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna said he was very excited and impressed with what he has seen of Hunt.

"I've followed State of Origin, I know it's not AFL football, but seeing how he moves, seeing how he hits, he's going to bring another dimension to an AFL football team," he said.

"Powerful, strong, quick and probably averages 23 tackles in a game.

"We're lucky to average 40 in a whole side. He's built for that, built for the physical demands of AFL football.

"Technically we are going to have do some work with him but that's no different to some of the Irish players who have crossed over.

"We are probably at an advantage given he played competitive AFL football as a teenager, so he's someone with a history in the game.

"We will sit down and map out his next 18 months and work out from a physical point of view and a technical side of things a program but I can't wait to get my hands on him."

With Hunt's contract with the Broncos up at the end of the 2009 NRL season, the 22-year-old's future has been a hot topic in recent months.

He knocked back a A$1.2 million ($1.52m) three-year deal from the Broncos earlier this year.

Sourced from: The New Zealand Herald