The Reason Why Jarryd Hayne’s NFL Success Could Be Disastrous For Rugby

San Francisco 49ers' Blaine Gabbert (2) hands off to Jarryd Hayne (38) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Houston Texans, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/George Bridges)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, it’s likely you will have heard of former NRL star Jarryd Hayne attempting to break into the NFL.

Hayne was immediately snapped up by the San Francisco 49ers where he has been enjoying significant coverage in the media after a standout debut was followed up by another impressive performance in his second game for the franchise.

There’s no doubting that Hayne should be applauded for the move – he’s one of the first to move from rugby to gridiron, and gave up the guaranteed money on offer in the NRL to chase an opportunity of playing in the NFL with no guarantees he would even be offered a place on a team’s roster.

So far though the gamble has paid off with Hayne being widely applauded by many pundits who feel he has done more than enough to earn a spot on the 49ers roster. There’s also no doubting that Hayne’s move will have helped improve rugby’s popularity in the US by showing the talent available in the sport.

However, could the knock on effects of Hayne’s move actually have a negative impact on the wider rugby community? Whilst it would be great for him to generate more attention in the hugely lucrative US market, the extra interest in the sport could bring about several unintended consequences.

The most concerning of which is that if Hayne does break into the 49ers final roster, and makes a splash in the NFL, are teams going to want to start looking at trying to lure over other potential stars given the physical traits rugby and football players share.

What’s to stop teams looking at players like Julian Savea as the next star running back, or Israel Folau as a wide receiver? There’s even the possibility of taking a closer look at players like Leigh Halfpenny as a kicker or someone with the physical prowess of Uini Atonio for the defensive line!

Now there are obviously no guarantees Hayne will even succeed, or that if he does become a star that NFL teams will pay any more attention to rugby, but it’s only going to take one or two making the move before the rest follow.

Given the huge salaries on offer in the hugely lucrative league in addition to the accompanying endorsement deals, it’s easy to see how even the most ardent of rugby players could be tempted to try their look in the US.

What do you make of Hayne’s move?



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  1. All this has been done and tried before (Naas Botha and the Dallas Cowboys). It will have no more long lasting impact now, than it did then.

  2. Hayne is by no means the first rugby player to make the transition to the NFL:

    Former French under 21 Richard Tardits left Biarritz for the NFL. He played for the Cardinals and the Patriots before converting back to rugby. He played at the 1999 RWC for the USA. David Dickson (Under 19 All-Black) played 11 seasons for the Vikings after winning a Super Bowl with the Cowboys. Most recently Hayden Smith left Saracens and played a season with the Jets, before returning back to rugby the following year.

    Lets not forget, Gavin Hastings tried his hand in NFL Europa (the former development league). O’Gara was offered a try-out by the Giants as he was born in New York, and Wilkinson himself was offered big money ($6million per year) to leave England after winning the RWC.

    Several Aussie rules stars have converted to the NFL late in their careers, including Sav Rocca & Ben Graham. Yet we do not see a line of Aussie rules retirees sending their CV’s the the NFL teams.

    In regards to Hayne, does anyone realise that his appearances have been in pre-season games versus 2nd & 3rd string players, most of whom are not expected to make the final roster?

    He has looked good, but running back is the position with the fastest declining value. The position is becoming less important with the high octane passing offenses around the league. Decent running backs are 10 a penny in the NFL, and are easily replaceable. Most offensive schemes rotate their running backs in and out of the game. Only the teams with legitimate stars at the position heavily use a single player (i.e. Adrian Peterson in Minnesota).

    Pre-season performance does not correlate well with regular season performance at his position. Last year, of the 87 running backs who put up good performances in the pre-season, only 10 replicated this in any manner in the regular season. These are all players who have played American Football since kindergarten.

    Hayne may indeed make the roster, but the idea of him ‘making a splash’ and being a star is preposterous.

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