Karmichael Hunt comes clean on his struggles
KARMICHAEL Hunt is Australian sport's fallen star, banished by the Reds and Wallabies following another drugs scandal.
Now back on the park and on the comeback trail, Hunt has addressed his mental health struggles, battle with the bottle, and rugby dreams in an exclusive interview with Kick and Chase.
Hunt, 31, sat down with Nick McArdle for an illuminating conversation that will air on Fox Sports 503 from Wednesday at 7.30pm AEST.
The former NRL star had enjoyed a breakout 2017 season in rugby, starring for the Reds and playing six Tests for the Wallabies.
But it all came crashing down when he was arrested on drugs charges in December last year - his second run in with the law after pleading guilty to cocaine possession in 2015.
In May this year, Hunt was fined $10,000 by Rugby Australia and banned for four games as well as being placed in a 12-month targeted illicit-drugs testing program.
Zero-tolerance Reds coach Brad Thorn has shown no interest in picking his former league teammate, and Hunt is now trying to rebuild his stocks with Brisbane City in the National Rugby Championship.
"I'm not perfect, I've made mistakes," Hunt admitted.
"I think the one thing, over the six months, that's been pretty clear to me is that I've just lacked care for my mental health.
"Since a 17-year-old, the only way I've been able to deal with stress in my life is just to cop it on the chin and move forward.
"And it's manifested in ways where it's got me in trouble.
"Binge drinking, alcohol use like that brings nothing but bad and along the years, the trip to the AFL put myself on the bottom of the pile.
"It was pretty stressful, a lot of anxiety around how I would end up during that transition.
"And then you go and add three kids in three and a half years plus another career change (switching from AFL to rugby).
"For me, the one thing that I always ended up getting in trouble with was I just bottled everything up, tried to deal with it, protect my family as much as possible from how I was feeling.
"But it just manifested in self-destructive behaviour, which was binge drinking, which led to other things.
"One thing I've learnt over the last six months is I need to start speaking up and admitting when things aren't OK for myself.
"And that it's OK not to be OK."
Hunt said he had spoken regularly with counsellors and psychologists over the past six months and this had been a big help as he looked to rebuild his career - and his strained relationships with loved ones.
"It's probably been the most difficult for my family, to bring embarrassment and shame on them again," he said.
"It's been pretty painful, to be honest, but the last six months has given me time with them to build the trust back up with my wife and my parents.
"We're all excited and hopeful for the future, that it's going to be a good one for us."
Asked directly whether he could guarantee there would be no more off field slip-ups, Hunt said he couldn't.
"The one thing I know about me is that I always do my best moving forward and I'll try and learn from my mistakes," he said.
"People will say, 'He got in trouble three years ago down on the Gold Coast' - funnily enough I did learn from that but obviously the one thing that I didn't learn was that I wasn't taking care of my mental health."
Contracted to the Reds and Rugby Australia for 2019, Hunt said he had bumped into Thorn regularly over the past month.
They were yet to have serious conversations about a potential Super Rugby lifeline, but Hunt hoped to prove his worth at training, in the gym and in the NRC, as Brisbane prepare to continue their campaign against defending champions Queensland Country on Sunday.
"My dream world would be to run out there with the Reds again and play some footy for the Wallabies again," Hunt said.
"That's my dream goal and I'm doing everything possible to put myself in that position for next year.
"This last chapter is probably my most important. I'm not going to be able to wipe away the past and nor do I want to.
"But I want to own it and I want to move forward and put footy at the forefront of the talking points when people speak about my name.
"I'm a new man in terms of my outlook on life and how I need to go forward as an athlete.
"And that's being more vocal about how I'm feeling.
"I'm just super focused to get back out there and play football and not let anyone down again.
"Especially the fans, especially my teammates, especially my club and my family, most importantly.
"So that's not going to happen again."