Hunt switch no cause for panic: NRL boss - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hunt switch no cause for panic: NRL boss

By Ed Jackson 29/07/2009 02:53:53 PM Comments (0)

Karmichael Hunt's switch to Australian Rules "doesn't mean the sky is falling" on rugby league, says NRL boss David Gallop.

Gallop says Hunt's decision to switch codes to league' major football rival Australian Rules with new AFL franchise Gold Coast was not a reflection on any deep problems within rugby league.

"Karmichael has been looking for a change for some time and we wish him luck in finding what he is looking for," said Gallop in a statement as he headed to Singapore for a three-day meeting of international rugby league powerbrokers.

"This is an individual decision, the sky is not falling - only a week ago we had (Wallaby centre) Timana Tahu coming back to rugby league."

He contrasted Hunt's exit from the game with the sensational sudden departure of Bulldogs star Sonny Bill Williams last season early in his contract for a lucrative offer in French rugby union.

And he played down the obvious PR benefit the AFL will glean as it hones in on the fiercely contested Gold Coast sporting market where the NRL's Gold Coast Titans currently reign.

"Karmichael hasn't walked out on a contract," Gallop said.

"He hasn't deserted teammates and we would welcome him back in the future.

"Rugby league is in a very strong position in many areas, Queensland and the Gold Coast in particular, and I am sure that we will maintain and grow that strength regardless of this announcement."

Meanwhile, Manly coach Des Hasler says the AFL's capture of Hunt should serve as a serious warning to rugby league.

The NRL premiership-winning coach said Hunt's decision to switch codes could open the doors to more players joining the AFL if the Queensland State of Origin star's move is a success.

And with the AFL planning to launch a new team into the traditional rugby league heartland of Sydney's western suburbs, Hasler said Wednesday's news had lit the fuse for red-hot battle between the rival codes.

"Here's another career path for aspiring league players," Hasler said.

"Given that Sydney has a four-and-a-half to five-million population, the outer west, where if another AFL side is commissioned there, it just puts pressure... on our code, particularly as far as recruitment is concerned.

"Sydney's only going to grow west, just the population and the number of young players that are out there, that are looking for a career path in sport. It's just another code to which you can aspire."

Hasler said Hunt was undoubtedly one of the most exciting players in the NRL and the AFL's decision to make a play for such a high-profile star meant it was game on between the rival football codes.

"It's a real battle of the codes," Hasler said.

"It'll be interesting to see how it pans out.

"There's been some talk in the papers of an NRL commission. I hope that's not too late because there needs to be some clear goals or definite outlines on what they're trying do as far as recruitment and keeping young players interested.

"Maybe it's time to look at places like Adelaide, look at places like Perth. I just think now, with this (Hunt's signing), that it is well and truly gloves off."

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