Former Fiji Bati Jarryd Hayne was cheered by Fijians and Australians after he made the 53-man roster for the San Francisco 49ers for the 2015 season in the American National Football League.
Excitement has been building as the 27-year-old — who a year ago played his last match for Sydney-based Parramatta Eels in the National Rugby League (NRL) — impressed in pre-season performances with the 49ers.
“This is a Housing Commission (public housing) kid from a single mum from Minto in Sydney, one of the poorest suburbs,” said Channel Seven sports reporter Josh Massoud on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“When he started in the NRL (National Rugby League), it took him three years to buy his first new pair of shoes.
“Now he will never have to buy another pair of shoes. It’s a wonderful story.”
Praise for Hayne also came from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who told reporters his success showed “that even in unfamiliar fields, Australians can do very well indeed when we put our minds to it”.
Hayne has long held a dream to play in the NFL and played 176 games for the Eels, scoring 103 tries, before announcing an unprecedented code swap late last year.
“Champ, we couldn’t be prouder! Keep dreaming big Haynesy #blueandgold #JH38,” the Eels tweeted.
Former team-mate and Eels captain Tim Mannah added: “Great day for Aussie sport. Great inspiration for people that want to chase dreams. Great start to a new journey. Great work .”
“Hard to say when I’ve been prouder as an Aussie sports fan. Well done, well done,” wrote one fan.
As well as being a star performer for Parramatta, Hayne also played 20 State of Origin matches for New South Wales and won 12 caps with the Kangaroos, the national rugby league team.
But securing a spot in the 49ers was seen as a tough challenge for Hayne, who only played his first American football game during a recent pre-season match for San Francisco.
“He was a freakish talent but appeared too inexperienced to make the grade. The closest he’d come to gridiron was playing computer games and throwing a ball in the backyard,” sports writer Will Swanton said in The Australian.
“But he set the NFL preseason alight, became the biggest sports story in American sport and earned himself a multimillion dollar contract.”
Hayne played three pool matches and the semi-final for the Fiji Bati scoring three tries and helped propel Fiji to the last four in the knockout stage in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.
- Yahoo Sports