WHEN Parramatta superstar Jarryd Hayne announced he was quitting the NRL to have a go at cracking an NFL roster, a few people wished him well, others scoffed and sportsbet.com.au went and created a market on whether he would make it or not.
The bookie offered $6 about him to play an NFL game and he’s taken a huge step this week by signing a three year deal as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers, giving him about $100,000 of guaranteed money, which will cover 20 weeks for him to prove his worth.
While the markets have now closed, if you were an astute punter you’d have taken the $21 on offer with sportsbet.com.au.
But the bookie’s Will Byrne tells BettingSite.com.au that not one punter touched those odds and the market has now closed.
“He was $1.25 to sign for the 49ers when the market closed and was once as large as $21 but no punter picked it,” Byrne said.
“We were offering $6 for Hayne to play a regular season NFL game and $18 to score a touchdown.”
He still has to play a game for punters to collect on the will he or won’t he make it bet, and that is a still a long shot.
But at least he’s in with a show.
Hayne’s rookie deal is far better than a futures contract, which NFL clubs hand out in preseason to this who are little more than prospects.
The 9ers are known as a club that takes a punt, having already given former British rugby player Lawrence Okoye a three year deal to see if he could crack it as a defensive linesman.
Hayne held a press conference earlier this week.
“The hard stuff starts now, when I get over there and start training, that’s when it’s business,” Hayne said.
“I know it’s going to be a huge mountain to climb.
“I’m excited, nervous and everything that goes along with such a big move.
“You have to be all in – I have all my chips on the table.
“I have no back up plan.”
Hayne has at least one all time NFL great in his corner, the former 49er Terrell Owens rooting for him to be a success.
“That’s a courageous thing for anybody to do, to quit something that you love and challenge yourself to do something out of the box,” Owens said.
“I’m hoping that he’s very successful with this journey.
“Hopefully he can be a trend-setter for many other athletes that really have the thoughts about switching over or trying something different. But just to have that courage and that confidence to do it, it could really steer other guys in that direction to do it as well.
“Playing in the National Football League and having other guys from other countries play our sport is remarkable.
“I think it’s good for the sport and for what I’ve known, most of the guys from Australia have been punters, there haven’t really been many position players.
“So this is a step in the right direction, not only for Jarryd personally, but also for the Australian athletes and I’m glad to see the community is behind him.
“In terms of being a punt returner or anything like that in the special teams department, obviously change of direction is big and speed is big in our sport
“So if he has great change of direction and vision, he should bode well.
“In terms of playing running back, the nature and culture of rugby, it’s a very physical sport, you really get in there and get your nose bloody, that type of game, as a running back, that should be right up his alley, to go in there and hit linebackers and get in the mix with some of those big guys.
“All he has to do is just learn the plays, know what he’s supposed to do and just go out there and play 100 percent.
“He has to get those basics down, if he has somebody that’s coaching him of what it’s like being a running back and what to expect, in terms of blocking and catching the ball too.”
Owens is optimistic and we would love to see Hayne crack the big time, but we’re going to play a bit of devil’s advocate here.
He’s nearly 27 and you wouldn’t expect him to get on the pitch in his first season – that will be spent learning the ropes and preparing. So say he’s 28 next season, that’s very late to be a rookie.
NFL is obviously a different kettle of fish to league.
And what about the plays? At 28, it will be like teaching your great grandpa to use an iPad – insanely difficult, but not impossible.
He’s got to get used to the padding, to the fact you can tackle people below the knees, and the sheer speed of NFL players in short distances. Where does he rank there? Surely not elite.
He’ll probably have to change his body to suit the game and learn to run routes.
So he really does have his work cut out, but we’re in his corner. Let’s hope he can do Australia proud!