Pressure on Hunt to repay Reds' faith
KARMICHAEL Hunt is facing a make-or-break month to repay the Reds and prove his worth for a contract extension after his best start to a Super Rugby season.
Queensland's three-year punt on Hunt as a rugby player is up after this season and the jury will inevitably be divided on his performance, his value and his future.
Hunt is playing his most confident and consistent rugby since switching to the code in late 2014.
His full-blooded runs from fullback have punch and he is finding more holes rather than simply running strongly into people with an undersized AFL body.
He is finally bobbing up all over the backline to contribute and the great shame is that Quade Cooper's ban has removed that potent partnership from the Reds' armoury for three games.
Hunt will instead be sniffing for another inside ball off fill-in flyhalf Jake McIntyre on Sunday morning (AEST) against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, just as he did so sharply a week ago in Johannesburg to set up a try for Duncan Paia'aia.
Not even Cooper (three) comes close to Hunt's six linebreak assists this season, which is the mark of the unselfish footballer.
Against the Lions he had 93 running metres, six tackle busts and two linebreak assists, an output the Reds never saw in 2015 and got hints of last year before groin issues grounded him.
Hunt owes the Reds for standing by him in 2015 when they could have jettisoned him for the cocaine issue he brought with him from his previous football lives. The ordinary Reds of that season could ill-afford the black eye to their image or his five-game ban.
Hunt is 30 and with 14 years on the clock as a top-level footballer.
Factor in the ban and injuries and he's only played 23 of a possible 35 Super Rugby games.
Hunt needs a riveting run of performances against the Jaguares, the Hurricanes at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night and the Brumbies on April 8 to really show his worth to the Wallabies and the Reds for a new contract.
Has he been worth the rumoured $1.5 million for three seasons that was paid for him?
No, not as an overall three-year project.
He is playing more like a $500,000-a-year player right now but the reality is that he may need to cop a shave, cash-wise, for his next deal while he keeps chasing a gold jersey.