Australian Test superstar Jarryd Hayne has shocked the rugby league world, announcing he will quit the NRL to pursue his dream of an NFL career in the United States.
The Parramatta fullback has withdrawn from Australian Kangaroos Four Nations squad which was announced only on Tuesday.
Hayne was recently in the United States to look at NFL facilities and it’s believed his NRL Club Parramatta was informed of his decision on Tuesday night.
Hayne said he did not have a contract in place with an NFL team, and had turned his back on a monster deal from the Eels to head to the States.
“I was probably about to become the highest paid player in the history of rugby league,” he said.
He became emotional discussing his upbringing in a housing commission in the western Sydney suburb of Minto.
“My whole dream as a professional athlete was to by my mum a house, and I did that. Everything else is a bonus,” he said, wiping tears away.
Hayne predicted a massive challenge adapting to the American game.
“I’m going as a rookie, as a kid who’s got to start from the bottom. But life’s a gamble, that’s what I enjoy.
“Realistically I should have made this decision 12 months ago but I didn’t have the courage.
“I believe I have the talent, I believe I have the speed.”
The 26-year-old felt he would be best suited to offense in the NFL.
“Punt returner, or kick returner, they’re very similar to full-back. Ultimately I think offense would be the easiest transition,” he said.
Hayne said he would head to the States with the aim of making a “train on” squad with a second-tier team.
He toured the facilities of the Seattle Seahawks and University of Washington Huskies during his recent visit.
The tour was originally thought to be a simple precursor to the Eels’ Seattle-based training trip in November, but his 10 day stay in Washington state seems to have laid the foundations for a stunning move to American football.
Hayne shared the 2014 Dally M medal with Cowboys playmaker Johnathan Thurston after scoring 20 tries for the Eels in the recent NRL season.
He was also named the NRL’s full-back of the year and representative player of the year after helping New South Wales break its State of Origin title drought against Queensland in July.
The Eels were written off as wooden-spoon contenders prior to the 2014 season, but Hayne’s efforts in topping the NRL’s try-scoring charts saw Parramatta finish 10th, level on points with eighth-placed Brisbane but heavily trailing in for-and-against.
Hayne has played 176 NRL games, scoring 103 tries in his career.