Congratulations to Jarryd Hayne for surviving cut after cut and making the San Francisco 49ers’ 53-man roster.
To have the wontons to quit a successful career in the NRL, relocate to the US and succeed in making a pro football team with nothing but desire and belief is an astonishing feat.
Hayne has proved all the naysayers wrong (I was one of them) and despite the happy words from NRL HQ, the success has sent shivers down their spines.
This quite frankly is the worst news the NRL has heard in sometime. Another one of the game’s biggest stars is lost, almost certainly forever now.
Hayne has resoundingly proved that a rugby league player – albeit a very good one – can make it in the US and earn squillions more than they would here.
Worse, Channel Seven are showing his games during the off-season, ensuring NFL is on the minds of young talent more than ever.
No doubt some in the HQ were thinking: ‘He’ll give it a good go, and we wish him well but he won’t make the squad and he’ll be back by 2016, and it’s the last we will hear of it.’
I certainly thought something along those lines.
If Dave Smith and the NRL think that this will be a one-off then they are sorely mistaken.
They need to safeguard against the future plucking of our biggest stars, the time has come for the NRL to introduce a marquee signing policy.
We’ve lost too many before, and we run the risk of losing more to another sport. Rugby union on the left, NFL on the right.
Hayne can sit on his backside for a season in the US and make $2 million a year. Johnathan Thurston can risk broken arms, ribs, and legs for about 28 games a year and make barely half that.
I’m not suggesting Hayne was chasing money, the NFL was a lifelong dream for him, but there will be others in the NRL thinking that they can now switch and make some good coin.
However, would Hayne have pursued a career in the NFL if he was on a salary more befitting of his talents and marketability here? We’ll never know, but I’d like to think that Hayne wouldn’t have walked away if he was on $2 million (or even a bit more) a year in the NRL.
There can be no question that Hayne’s successes will lead the NFL to expand its scouting more seriously to Australia.
And why shouldn’t they?
For all of Hayne’s talent, he is 27 and wasn’t even the absolute best in the game (Greg Inglis is).
The NFL will be looking at players five to six years younger and of similar if not better abilities.
The NFL know too that they can offer a minimum wage salary that would make players here drool.
For example, let’s look at Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
He is supremely talented and he is only 22.
Should the NFL be interested in him, what’s going to keep him here?
The money? Nope.
The crowds? Considering the average crowd in the US is 65,000 compared to 14,000 here, I think we can say no.
He’d gain significantly greater exposure in the NFL and thereby increase his salary more than he would here. In the words of Indiana Jones, he’ll chase after “fortune and glory”.
Can’t blame him either.
The NRL run the serious risk of losing quality talent like him to the NFL. However, a marquee signing policy, along with the necessary funding by the NRL, could persuade him to stay.
Tuivasa-Sheck is just an example.
There are others who now can also harbour serious dreams about a switch to the US.
Blake Ferguson perhaps, Will Hopoate or Michael Jennings.
Heck, given his superhero like abilities, Greg Inglis might want to have a go.
He’s only one year older than Hayne, and significantly more talented.
Of course, I don’t believe that any of these had the same passion for NFL as Hayne did.
But the next generation might.
Yes, I might be sounding alarmist, but it’s amazing how fast one can multiply to two, then four, and then eight if nothing is done.
It’s not just the current stock of players under threat.
Hayne has now planted a seed whose roots will spread quickly; the next generation of stars is under threat.
We need a marquee salary system to make sure that our future stars are compensated enough to not leave the game.
Put any expansion plans on hold and use the extra money from the TV deal to fund the players better.
My heartiest congratulations once more to Hayne.
We should be celebrating your success and we wish you all the best at San Francisco.
But the NRL should never have been in a position to allow this to happen.