Karmichael Hunt of the Suns and Israel Folau of the Giants pose ahead of Saturday's first AFL match between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the Gold Coast Suns in Canberra. Photo: Getty Images
It’s that time of year when you’d expect to see Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt in photo shoots for the Queensland State of Origin team, but yesterday they were in Canberra promoting the first AFL meeting between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the Gold Coast Suns.
They spent a season together at the Brisbane Broncos and represented Australia together in rugby league.
But they were here for a completely different game on this sunny Canberra afternoon.
Instead of getting ready for one of the fiercest rivalries in Aussie sport, they were preparing for one of the newest.
They were both staying at the same hotel, there to do a job for their respective teams.
And this photo opportunity gave them the chance for a quick catch-up, away from the pressure cooker of the AFL.
Straight away you could tell they were mates.
Big smiles, the bro’ hug – hands slapped together, chests bumped – and straight into having a chat.
They’ve kept in touch since the Broncos days – the odd text here and there, having a chat after the NAB Cup they played against each other earlier in the year, but the talk’s not about football.
‘‘Because we haven’t seen each other for a while we just try to catch up and see what’s been happening and that,’’ Folau said. ‘‘There’s not much talk about footy at all, just general things and how everything’s going.
‘‘He’s getting great feedback from the players around him and I am as well. We are on the same kind of journey and we know what to do so we’ve just got to do it.’’
As the NRL edges towards Origin you’d think their longing for league would be at its strongest, but both said those days were in the past.
Now they’re completely focused on making it in what many considered to be a freak science experiment – converting an elite NRL player into an AFL one.
It was commonplace between the rugby codes but this was just too far.
Both were adamant those rugby league days were behind them.
‘‘I’m still a fan of the game and Origin time is always pretty exciting. For me I just gloss over the papers to see who they’re thinking is coming in and who is going to be the bolter, but I definitely don’t wish I was back playing because I’m enjoying and loving what I’m doing at the moment,’’ Hunt said.
Today they’ll put their friendship aside for four quarters of football.