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Mitch Hunt's simple message to Super Rugby players in search of opportunities across New Zealand

By Alex McLeod

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Highlanders playmaker Mitch Hunt has a simple message for Kiwi Super Rugby players looking elsewhere to gain more minutes on the field: do it.

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Speaking to media on Wednesday, Hunt revealed he has signed a two-year contract extension with the Highlanders that will keep him in Dunedin until 2023.

It comes two years after it was announced that the 25-year-old would move south from the Crusaders, the franchise where he landed his first Super Rugby gig in 2016.

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Hunt stayed in Christchurch for a further three seasons as he helped the Crusaders claim a hat-trick of Super Rugby titles between 2017 and 2019.

His role in those championships were somewhat limited, though, as he was largely confined to a bench role behind the mercurial Richie Mo’unga, who was named by Jeff Wilson and Mils Muliaina as the greatest-ever Super Rugby player earlier this week.

That led Hunt to weigh up his options and move to Forsyth Barr Stadium in search of more playing time to help fully realise his potential.

That decision has paid dividends as Hunt has played in every Highlanders match since the beginning of the 2020 season, impressing from both first-five and fullback.

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Hunt’s form earned him a call-up to the North Island squad for last year’s North vs South squad, thrusting into the conscience of the national selectors, and his influence for the Highlanders hasn’t diminished this season.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Hunt has decided to throw his lot in with the Highlanders for another two years.

“I think it was initiated by the club first, which was great,” Hunt said.

“I’ve just loved my time here. I think the fact that, moving from Christchurch, I’ve played every game possible, hence the reason for my move down, which was the opportunity [to play more often].

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“I’m stoked to be back with the group because I’ve had such a great time down here. The purpose of moving was great and the people were fantastic, so I think that decision became really easy for me in sticking around.”

As living proof of how beneficial it can be to move to another franchise in pursuit of more minutes, Hunt urged others in his position across the country to consider such an option as his own move has been a career-changer.

“I think you can look at the likes of myself, guys like [current Highlanders and ex-Crusaders flanker] Billy Harmon, and if the opportunity is not here and it’s somewhere else, I think you can see where you get regular game time, and if it is here, fantastic.

“What it can do to your game, your confidence, and I think the growth, for me, has been humongous coming in here, hence why I want to stick around as well.

“I think if that becomes an opportunity for a player to get more minutes and grow, then I think it’s beneficial.”

Hunt has again been named to start at first-five for the Highlanders against the Rebels in a match that has been moved from Queenstown to Sydney amid Melbourne’s recent COVID-19 outbreak.

Despite the disruptive lead-up to the match, which will now be played at Leichardt Oval, Hunt is excited to face another Australian side after having already dispatched the Reds and Force in the past fortnight.

“It’s actually refreshing.You’ve been a couple years out of playing those guys and, to be fair, there’s only a couple of faces that you sort of recognise,” he said.

“There’s a lot of younger guys around that Aussie set-up who you don’t know, so even in terms of the previewing the groups, you don’t know a lot of these guys, you’re trying to work out how these guys play, the style of the Aussie teams.

“You’re not quite sure of what the intensity is going to be like when you get out there on the field until you get there, so a lot of things like that around the unknown is actually refreshing for the whole circle of it.”

Kick-off for the Highlanders’ clash against the Rebels is scheduled for 3pm Sunday local time [5pm NZT].

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Mitch Hunt's simple message to Super Rugby players in search of opportunities across New Zealand

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