Triple threat Tahs stars reunite for title hunt
THEY'RE the only two men to have ever played three football codes professionally in Australia, and new teammates Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt believe the Waratahs have all the ingredients to win the Super Rugby title in 2019.
Having made their names in the NRL, Folau and Hunt made shock switches to the AFL before both eventually found their way to rugby, but for the first time since playing for the Brisbane Broncos in 2009, they'll be club teammates once more at NSW.
"You look at Karmichael, Adam Ashley-Cooper's come back, we've got a great bunch of young blokes coming through, so we've got great depth compared to what we had last season," Folau said.
"And we did well last year to get to where we were [semi-finalists], but it's exciting, the self-confidence and belief in the group.
"We know we can take it to the next level now, and the support we get from Tahs fans will certainly help us."
Hunt, who had been at Queensland but was snubbed by coach Brad Thorn for the entire 2018 Super season after being charged with cocaine possession which was later dropped, has found a career revival in NSW alongside his former Maroons teammate and has no regrets about switching state allegiance.
"I couldn't feel any better to be honest, it'd be different if I was going into NSW Blues camp but coming down here is a dream come true, being able to play with Izzy again and the rest of the boys, the talent speaks for itself," Hunt said.
"The one thing I've really enjoyed seeing is how hungry the young guys are, how well prepared the coaches have got them for the start of the season.
"To cross paths with Izzy for the last 14 years, it's a pretty cool story, and to end up at the Tahs, I'm really looking forward to the year ahead.
"We're probably the only ones with the appreciation of how hard the transitions are, especially to AFL, going from league to AFL, gee that was tough on the body.
"We're the only ones to have done that, and then coming to rugby, we know how much of a toll it takes.
"So it's good to reconnect."
Folau added: "It's a huge plus for us to get someone of his caliber as a player and his experience not only in rugby but across the other codes we've played."
Waratahs captain Michael Hooper played a key role in luring Hunt across the border.
"I was a bit of a fanboy of Karmichael growing up, I really liked the intent with how he played, when I watched him at Origin level, there was something about his level of commitment and how he moved, I really liked watching him play," Hooper said.
"And obviously Izzy has done it all, you can't be an Australian and not know who Izzy is.
"There some sprinkling of new faces but we're another year on, we've got a really good crew of guys in their late 20s into their 30s, and a solid middle tier of players who've had a little taste of some success last year.
"We didn't get all the way to the end, but finishing third is a real positive step up from the year before, and seeing what it takes to get to that level.
"We've got a really full squad and it's going to be hard for [coach Daryl Gibson] to pick his team."