Hayne, you may know, abandoned the NRL last year (where he was a superstar) and is currently attempting to make the NFL (where he is a no-name novelty from overseas).
So if I don’t like the sport he played or the stupid sport he’s trying to play… why am I interested in Hayne’s progress?
Because of American arrogance and condescension. It bugs me.
I am a HUGE proponent of objective assessment of athletes. It’s why the AFL’s best can’t possibly compare to LeBron James in raw athleticism whereas they’d comfortably beat LeBron in a time trial 10km run.
I have friends who, shamefully, actually follow the hideously boring NFL and they’ve seemingly bought into the myth that the NFL’s best are inherently more physical and more advanced than the rugby (League or Union) lads or essentially any other sport.
Yes, I admit… Wide Recievers, Running Backs, Tight Ends… these are not just sexual euphemisms… they are also impressive athletes with speed and power.
But let’s not kid ourselves that the qualities that make these men excel at their ridiculous sport are exclusively the domain of North America.
If you read American fan forums, Hayne doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell at making the San Francisco 49ers final squad for the upcoming season.
Hayne is in a 90-man training camp which will undergo a series of cuts before finally getting down to 53 players.
He is in competition with other camp attendees to become one of the few Running Backs or more likely one of the few Punt Returners in the squad.
Playing Running Back or Punt Return isn’t exactly rocket science. In both cases you’re expected to catch a ball… and then run like hell… while adjusting to the defensive coverage.
The general consensus from the 49ers camp is that Hayne is a good guy, he works hard, he’s improving and learning quickly, and he’s a very good athlete. But they’re not TOO effusive in their praise, for obvious reasons:
- He hasn’t even made the actual team yet
- Players actively in competition with Hayne for a roster spot are hardly going to lavish praise upon him, are they?
So everyone is kind of apprehensive about predicting whether he’ll make the team or not. At the moment though, admittedly, it seems less likely than likely.
Fans don’t think he can cut it. Most often they say the pace of the game is too fast, the big hits are too big, and the pads will slow him.
By their condescending logic a grown man with a decade of professional experience playing a full-contact high-impact collision sport at its highest level is less-equipped than… basically any American who is more familiar with the game since they played in High School and College.
It’s as though they believe the complex art of “catching a ball and running with it until you are tackled” is unique to their game, and that no skills that Hayne refined over a lifetime of elite Rugby League played at the highest level could possibly be translatable to the NFL.
I can understand that being elite in one sport doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be good at another sport…
… but Hayne’s previous experience in a sport involves essentially the same skill set. And make no mistake: Hayne was an elite Rugby League player. A superstar in Australia, the Hayne Train was a one-man wrecking ball of pace, strength, and skill.
But apparently doing the same basic task (albeit with comically over-sized pads on) is something beyond the capability of anyone born outside North America.
I consciously avoid the diabolical NFL as best I can, so I can’t speak with any confidence about Hayne ‘definitely’ making the cut. He might not.
I just hope that any failure from Hayne is the result of genuine lack of performance or Hayne not picking up the nuances of the game quickly enough.
I would hate to think he missed the cut because the coaches aren’t brave enough to ignore the fans complaining that his skills or physical abilities “aren’t up to scratch.”
And if any fans of the deplorable blight on human existence that is the NFL would like to take issue with my assertion that their heroes might not be the bees knees, well, I invite them to get off the bench they sit on for half the match… stop taking a break every few seconds… take off their ridiculous pads… and step forward, because Mr Sonny Bill Williams and Mr Jonah Lomu and Mr Cian Healy and Mr Pierre Spies have a few words on the matter…