Jarryd Hayne’s friends feared his NFL dream with the San Francisco 49ers was about to end

19-09-2018 by admin

Back at Parra: Jarryd Hayne greets fans at Pirtek Stadium before the round one match in March between the Eels and Broncos. Photo: Mark KolbeMatt Barrows: Hayne may have seen writing on the wallHayne could go to Rio and return to NRL this yearHayne’s announcement shocks sporting worldTrying to make the possible impossible

Throughout last summer many of Jarryd Hayne’s mates were predicting this day would come – they just didn’t think the next step would be playing rugby sevens for Fiji at the Rio Olympics.

How could they? Hayne himself didn’t know until three weeks ago that’s where this strange and magical journey otherwise known as his sporting career would take him.

When Hayne released a statement on Monday morning that he was “retiring from the NFL” after eight regular season games with the San Francisco 49ers – “Signing off, your mate, number 38” – the coterie of former teammates who spent time with him in Sydney earlier this year were barely surprised.

In every respect, it had been the Summer of Jarryd: he partied on Coogee rooftops with Chris Gayle, spruiked his new clothing line wherever he went, walked the streets of Minto with Karl Stefanovic for 60 Minutes and released his own documentary carrying the aspirational title “Aussie Hero, American Dream”.

Hayne seemed relieved. After the exhausting events of the past year, in which he went from NFL dreamer to overnight sensation to suddenly being dumped from the 49ers roster, he had every right to live large in his own trademarked streetwear.

What Hayne no longer seemed to have was the fear: that palpable anxiety that drove him from the moment he walked away from millions at Parramatta with nothing and everything to lose and allowed him to play in the NFL when most had laughed at the suggestion.

In those embryonic weeks chasing his NFL dream Hayne had to succeed. Returning to the NRL wasn’t an option. Now that he had climbed the mountain, those same mates who knew him best cast doubt on how successful Hayne would be in his second season at the 49ers under new coach Chip Kelly.

On Monday, Hayne’s long-time manager Wayne Beavis denied Hayne had jumped before being pushed out by Kelly. Indeed, there was scepticism about whether Hayne would make the final 53-man roster.

“The 49ers were sad to see him go,” Beavis, who has managed Hayne since he was a teenager, told me. “The rugby thing had only come up in the last three weeks.”

Perhaps the seed had been planted during the Sydney Sevens in February.

As San Francisco buzzed ahead of Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium, Hayne was sitting in a corporate box at Allianz Stadium watching the fourth round of the international sevens series.

Hayne is now in London for the series finale. Fiji sits atop the standings and they are favourites to win. It is unknown if the rugby rookie will play.

Whether Hayne can make the leap from rugby league to sevens rugby – via American football – was always going to be a more relevant question than whether he will be WADA compliant to compete in Rio in August.

Hard to track: The Hayne Plane plots his own course.

Former ASADA boss and now doping rent-a-quote Richard Ings took to Twitter to smugly declare Hayne was “no chance” of competing at the Olympics because he was coming from the NFL, which is not WADA compliant.

To be eligible for the Olympics, Ings argued, he would have to be subjected to six months of testing as part of a WADA-compliant code.

“Slight problem, mate,” he tweeted to Hayne. “World Rugby require you to be in their registered testing pool 6 months to be eligible to play.”

Put those thumbs back in the holster for a second, though, Mr Ings. The Hayne Plane has options.

According to lawyers with far greater knowledge of the issue than Richard Ings – because they deal with player eligibility on a daily basis – Hayne can agree to be placed in a “testing pool” that would see him subjected to stringent testing in the lead-up to the Olympics.

Or he can appeal for clemency on the mandatory six-month period, although that is an unlikely avenue given the NFL’s appalling reputation when it comes to doping.

Beavis says Fijian Rugby had told him Hayne had been “cleared” to play in the Olympics – and on Tuesday morning came clarification from the governing body.

It would have been a stunning mistake from all concerned if Hayne had not considered the anti-doping ramifications of his code jump before he did so.

Of greater concern is how Hayne will adapt to sevens play – and whether he will deserve a place in the 12-man Fijian roster most consider to be the best in the world.

Sevens rugby requires an entirely different skills set to the 15-man game. In both the NRL and NFL Hayne was accustomed to anaerobic bursts of power and speed. In sevens, a player must run at top pace for two seven-minute halves.

Making a swift transition is almost impossible.

By the numbers: Jarryd Hayne’s brilliant career. Photo: Getty Images

Earlier this month, Quade Cooper was dumped from coach Andy Friend’s Australian squad for the Olympics. Brumbies winger Henry Speight’s switch has been indifferent. The same applies for Nick Cummins.

Sonny Bill Williams is one of the world’s most gifted and adaptable athletes but the way Kenyan skipper Andrew Amonde toyed with and then stepped around him in Paris at the weekend shows how much he needs to learn before Rio.

We want the Hayne Plane in Brazil, of course.

The miserable cynics moan about too many Jarryd Hayne stories – apparently, someone is holding a gun to their head and demanding they read them – but this fascinating sporting journey continues to entertain. It hasn’t gone Mundine-shaped yet.

Sure, Jarryd’s slightly ahead of himself.

The launch of a clothing line with his NFL career still in its infancy could be considered premature.

And one line from his documentary – which was tied to his lucrative Telstra deal – stood out: “The world these days isn’t about taking yourself out of the kingdom and putting yourself with the peasants.”

Hayne is no peasant. Beavis has invested his money wisely.

But nobody can dispute his courage in walking away from millions at Parramatta to risk it all on an NFL career that might not have happened. And now, out of nowhere, he decides to chase down a start at the Rio Olympics, earning effectively nothing.

When it’s all over he’s expected to return to the NRL. Maybe his former club Parramatta can find some big, fat third-party agreements … or Nick Politis will finally convince him to come to the Roosters.

Some suggest he will shun a return to the NRL, where he often looked bored outside of the headline games, and play rugby in Europe.

But if anyone tells you they know what Jarryd Hayne’s next move is, whether it’s tomorrow, next week, next year, they’re kidding themselves.

He makes it up as he goes. What’s not to admire about that?

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