Broncos losing hope of keeping Star Hunt - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Broncos losing hope of keeping Star Hunt

By Jim Morton 17/03/2009 05:14:09 PM Comments (0)

Brisbane are facing the grim prospect of Karmichael Hunt enjoying a rugby union sabbatical before resuming his NRL career with the Broncos.

And the man the club fears is poised to snatch the star fullback away for up to two years is Japan-based former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones.

Broncos chief executive Bruno Cullen on Tuesday indicated he was virtually resigned to losing Hunt after withdrawing a three-year contract offer, reportedly worth $1.2 million.

Cullen said he was no longer hopeful of keeping the 22-year-old as Brisbane immediately started ramping up their contingency plans.

"It's got to the point where it's become a bit of a saga I suppose and we had to move on," he said.

Also making it harder, Hunt will have to accept a reduced offer if he decides to stay at the club he debuted for at 17 and has said he never wants to play against.

Cullen believes the Australian and Queensland representative is seriously exploring the option of playing rugby in Japan or Europe as he tries to cope with the fallout from last September's sexual assault allegations.

Hunt was never charged over the incident which also involved teammates Sam Thaiday and Darius Boyd but Cullen admitted he was a "slightly different character" since.

"I get the impression he's not that comfortable with a whole lot of things in his life at the moment and he might be just thinking the best place for him is not in Brisbane," he said.

"He has told us he doesn't have a problem with the club and he doesn't want to play with another NRL club and he appreciates the offer we've made him is a pretty good one and he'd love to be, and this might sound a conflict, a long-time player at the Broncos.

"In saying all that there's this other thing out there that has attracted him to a degree to see what is it and what is it worth.

"And if it is there 'am I better being out of there for a year or two or more and then perhaps even come back at a later time?'."

Cullen stressed Hunt had the club's support but admitted it was difficult to keep him, prompting him to "throw out the option" of a sabbatical.

"If he needs time out from either the game, or this area, or this club or this town, I'd be thinking then perhaps we'd welcome him back in a year or two," he said.

Hunt played union at high school in Brisbane and is understood to be in the sights of Japanese rugby clubs Kobe and Suntory.

Former Wallabies, Brumbies and Queensland Reds coach Jones is this month rejoining Suntory, who he's coached before and long been a consultant with, after leaving London club Saracens.

Cullen believed Jones' switch had contributed to Hunt wanting more time to explore the Japanese and European rugby landscape.

"I don't believe there's any real concrete offers there (for Hunt) at the moment either but there's a suggestion of some and there's some timing issues there as well and that might revolve around people like Eddie Jones who are probably still in England and going to Japan," he said.

"According to reports Eddie's very keen on getting Karmichael to play rugby in Japan."

The Broncos main priority now is retaining Test captain Darren Lockyer.

Cullen said Hunt's non-signing may make it easier to keep Lockyer but indicated his likely contract offer would change little as a result.

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