Fitness key to staying in the hunt

EX-RUGBY league star Karmichael Hunt is facing the reality 2014 could be his last season in the AFL.

The 26-year-old (pictured) has played 43 senior games during his three seasons with Gold Coast, but managed just nine in 2013 thanks to a combination of hamstring and calf injuries.

Hunt, being paid more than $1 million a season thanks to a significant contribution from the AFL for his marketing value, has been told by coach Guy McKenna he needs to get fitter or risk being left behind by young on-ballers such as Dion Prestia and Jaeger O'Meara.

"For us to become a legitimate finals contender next season, we have to make sure we've got blokes that can run out four quarters," McKenna told "That's Karmichael's great challenge."

Hunt began 2013 in a run-with role, tagging St Kilda star Nick Dal Santo in the opening game at Metricon Stadium, after playing the previous season as a contested ball-winning midfielder.

The former Broncos and Kangaroos star, who also played top level rugby union in France, is off contract at the end of 2014.

McKenna was full of praise for Hunt's achievements, and said he had no doubt the man dubbed Special K would not walk away from the AFL without giving it his best shot.

"Karmichael's had to carry a lot, and no other player has done it ever in Australia," the coach said.

"He wants to be a bona fide midfielder, and we're going to give him every opportunity. He just needs to get fit. He understands the young group is coming and he wants to make sure these blokes can't fight past him. He's not going to lie down and make it easy for them."

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