Rugby League

‘Benji is inspiring me’: The moment Karmichael Hunt targeted NRL return

Karmichael Hunt was having dinner with his new Broncos teammates on Monday night when the subject of Benji Marshall was raised.

“He is inspiring, he’s definitely inspiring me,” Hunt said of the veteran South Sydney playmaker.

Karmichael Hunt playing for the Broncos in 2009.Credit:Getty

“It was a full-circle moment, for sure,” he said of his first day at team training on Monday.

“I couldn’t have predicted this outcome, if you’d asked me two years ago where I’d end up.

“If you’d asked, ‘Do you think you would be back in rugby league or the Broncos?’, I would have said no. It’s kind of a feel-good moment for me.”

Hunt watches more rugby league now than during his initial playing days. When he witnessed his beloved Broncos cop a record 58-0 hammering at the hands of Parramatta two finals series ago, he started to get the itch to return to the game in which he made his name.

I’m definitely a lot smarter than I was, I won’t be running into brick walls like I was when I was 17.

“It was an ugly day and I was like ‘Geez, I’d like to get back and help there if I could,’” he said.

“I had another year there with the Waratahs and this year, the way it ended with them not wanting to spend money and us not wanting to go overseas because of COVID, we packed up and went back to Brissie.

“I thought, ‘I’ve still got some good years of footy left in me and I’d like to get back into league and coach after I finish playing’. But let’s have one more crack at playing and see if an opportunity pops up.”

There were, in fact, several opportunities to return to the NRL. After impressing for Souths Logan in the Queensland Cup, where he was playing at left centre, the Titans and Cowboys expressed interest. However, the chance to return to the Broncos was irresistible.

Hunt started his career as a fullback, but will likely be considered as a half if required by coach Kevin Walters.

“I’m definitely a lot smarter than I was, I won’t be running into brick walls like I was when I was 17,” he said. “There will be no kamikazes, I’ll leave that up to [current custodian] Jamayne [Isaako].”

Hunt rejoins the Broncos a very different person due to the professional and life experiences that have come with fatherhood and stints in AFL and rugby. Asked how he has changed from the tyro who first burst onto the league landscape, the former Waratahs star replied: “He’s still a competitor, he still goes out and gives his all.

“He’s obviously a lot more mature off the field, he doesn’t go out and make silly decisions any more. He’s got four kids this time around, he’s a father more so than one of the lads.

“But I’ve got a lot of care for my craft and now I have a deeper appreciation for professional sports and wanting to give back to the young kids coming through.

“It’s full circle for me. It’s really gratifying to have this opportunity to be able to give back and still compete at this level.”

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