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Rugby League: Hunt's defection the latest in a long line of sporting switches [Jul. 29th, 2009|05:42 pm]
Sports Shorts


The shock news - and for once that description doesn't seem overblown - that Karmichael Hunt is to leave rugby league to play Aussie Rules has set me thinking about switches of sport that have happened - and not happened - in the past.

I'm not thinking of the well-trod path between league and union; there have been a lot more eccentric examples than that.

On the All Golds tour to Britain in 1908, Dally Messenger so impressed with his kicking skills that both Spurs and Manchester United made him massive offers to stay here as a soccer player. The great man had already shone in another sport, as a champion oarsman in his homeland.

Then there was Ray Lindwall, who gave up a career as St George full-back to concentrate on becoming one of cricket's all-time greats.

Coming in the opposite direction and excluding rugby union, the main source of league latecomers has been athletics. It has been a mixed story, with the likes of McDonald Bailey, shot-putter Arthur Rowe, Darren Clarke and, most recently, Dwayne Chambers all flitting across the scene only briefly.

On the other hand, sprinters Berwyn Jones and Alf Meakin achieved a good deal in the code.

As you might expect, there has been some traffic between the various codes of football. Dennis Betts and St Helens/Celtics half-back Matty Smith are two examples of RL players who were previously on the books of soccer clubs - Man Utd and Everton respectively.

Gaelic football provided Kevin Moran for Old Trafford and Brian Carney was primarily a Gaelic player before he discovered the delights of rugby league with the Dublin Blues and the Irish Students.

Terry Price has been league's highest-profile export to American football - specifically as a kicker. A few have tried it in the opposite direction, with Manfred Moore at Newtown perhaps coming closest to making it in 1977.

And who can forget that press conference where the London Monarchs gridiron outfit announced the signings of Ellery Hanley and Martin Offiah.

Needless to say, neither of them ever played a minute of American football and the whole thing was revealed as the huge publicity stunt that it had always seemed to be.

Which brings us back to Karmichael Hunt...