Karmichael Hunt leaves court in February after having his drugs charge dropped. Picture: AAP
Karmichael Hunt leaves court in February after having his drugs charge dropped. Picture: AAP

Cooper’s call brought Karmichael Hunt in from the cold

DRUG-tainted Karmichael Hunt is out of isolation after a personal overture from Quade Cooper and will make a club comeback for Souths on the Gold Coast.

Souths club president Tony Shepley was admirablly honest when he said the decision to let Hunt link with the Magpies was "not met with 100 per cent approval" within the club and he expected "a polarising reaction".

After a long limbo, Hunt's return to play has happened quickly this week after legal letters were sent to the Queensland Rugby Union and the player made his own request that he wanted to return to work.

Hunt's club Norths took a strong stance by vetoing an approach to return, but received a document on Thursday from Souths notifying that Hunt would be registered there.

Former Wallaby Cooper made the initial approach to Souths coach Elia Tuqiri on Thursday, asking if Hunt could come down to training that night.

Hunt appeared, ran for the full session in a variety of backline positions, dealt with contact without a problem and gave advice to younger players.

"It was a bit of shock having Karmichael there but it was no issue with me after Quade asked and said he was just thinking about his wellbeing," Tuqiri said.

"He was not necessarily looking for a game but just to get involved as part of a group because he's been in isolation for a long while.

"I'm not making any judgement on a person's past and he's obviously suffered consequences for his actions."

Quade Cooper has been impressive for Souths. Picture: Josh Woning/AAP
Quade Cooper has been impressive for Souths. Picture: Josh Woning/AAP

Hunt's career has been in limbo since late December when he was arrested in a Fortitude Valley carpark where cocaine was discovered, according to police, on the ground.

The six-Test Wallaby had cocaine possession charges dropped at a February court appearance because of lack of evidence.

A subsequent Rugby Australia Integrity Unit investigation delivered a $10,000 fine and a retrospective four-match ban for a code-of-conduct breach.

Hunt has largely dropped off the map this season. There was no welcome mat at the Reds, where head coach Brad Thorn's strong stance on cultural change for the squad made it a poor fit for a player banned for cocaine possession in 2015 and caught up in further allegations in the off-season.

Fourteen Reds games have been and gone without Hunt, plus three Tests in June since his last match seven-and-a-half months ago when he was a replacement against Scotland in Edinburgh.

Tuqiri said Hunt's physical condition indicated he'd been doing plenty of private work to stay in shape.

Karmichael Hunt shares a joke with Michael Cheika last November. Picture: Getty Images
Karmichael Hunt shares a joke with Michael Cheika last November. Picture: Getty Images

"He did all the training, full contact, and filled in wherever needed in the centres or on the wing," Tuqiri said.

"To me, he looked in great shape and still looked a player at a level above club footy."

The audition went well enough for Hunt to be brought on to the bench to act as a replacement for the second-placed Magpies against Bond University at Bond Uni on Saturday.

"There are some real pros and real cons to this and we are thinking about his wellbeing as much as anything," Shepley said.

"There'll be some pushback, no doubt.

"Our major concern is around our juniors but my view is 'give the guy a go' because how long do you let it (the stand-off) go on."

Shepley is a club sponsor so he has made his call on two levels.

He said he contacted the QRU when the Hunt request to train was made.

"The QRU's view was that it was a club decision and they weren't in a position to block it or want to," Shepley said.

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