Hunt backs Folau’s bid to end league exile
Karmichael Hunt has thrown his support behind fellow cross-code star Israel Folau returning to Australian rugby league in Queensland's top competition.
Hunt was the star attraction at the Queensland Rugby League's Statewide Competitions Launch in Brisbane on Friday.
The three-code pioneer will turn out for Souths-Logan in this year's Intrust Super Cup after departing the NSW Waratahs.
Hunt, 34, cut his teeth at Souths-Logan before becoming a Queensland Origin and Kangaroos representative at the Broncos.
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He made a shock defection to the AFL with the emerging Gold Coast Suns in 2011 before embarking on a Super Rugby career from 2015.
Folau followed a similar path, stunning the NRL with his freakish talent at the Storm and Broncos before making a failed switch to AFL with the GWS Giants.
Folau, 31, spent seven seasons in rugby before an explosive scandal involving homophobic social media posts saw him controversially sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019.
Folau continued his career with French Super League club Catalans, but has returned to Australia and been linked with a return to the NRL.
A mooted path back to the top league involves him playing in the Intrust Super Cup this year.
Teammates at the Broncos and NSW Waratahs, Hunt said he had no problem with Folau playing in the Queensland Cup despite not agreeing with his beliefs.
"I played with Izzy and know him," Hunt said.
"Personally I don't agree with his beliefs, but they're his beliefs and he is entitled to them.
"If he was to come back and play league in the Q-Cup I think why not?
"I know Izzy personally and he is not a bad person. He has his beliefs which millions of other people in the world share. They are beliefs that are thousands of years old.
"I don't agree with him but I have family members of the same faith. It's their reality.
"In saying that, there are repercussions for what we say and do. He is definitely paying for that. If there is an opportunity that pops up for him to come back and play Q-Cup, I've got no issues at all."
The Courier-Mail canvassed a range of opinions on Folau at the launch and received mixed responses.
QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher has admitted the organisation is unlikely to have any legal reason to prevent Folau from playing if a club signs him.
The NRL has distanced itself from declaring whether Folau would be allowed to participate in the competition again due to his polarising views.
Either way, the QRL is hoping its major competitions can progress smoothly this year following the cancellation of most leagues in 2020.
The Intrust Super Cup only lasted one round last year before being abandoned due to COVID complications.
Hatcher said the decision to cancel last year's competitions ensured the survival of the clubs and strong leagues in 2021.
"Last year we had to make some tough decisions that weren't very popular," he said.
"The financial sustainability of not only our premier competitions but also community football was our greatest concern.
"Having come through that with the benefit of hindsight, I know we made the right decisions.
"We look forward to all the energies that didn't get to be expressed last year being put forward this year. We want all of our competitions to be competitive and resilient."
The Intrust Super Cup kicks off next weekend.
Originally published as Hunt backs Folau's bid to end league exile