Could an AFL player make it in the NRL?
Nic Naitanui outmarks Nick Maxwell (Slattery Images)
It has been a common occurrence that NRL players have been converted to other sports, most notably rugby and more recently the AFL, in the pursuit of big paychecks.
Whether codes are handing out these dollar bills in an attempt to kill off rugby league or boost interest in their own sport I am unsure.
However it did provide me with a great inner monologue while flicking between the Warriors v Wests Tigers and the Collingwood v Geelong games.
Could an AFL player make it in the NRL and could League get some pay back for the code cheating nature of guys like Rodgers, Tuqiri, Hunt, Sailor and so many more?
Before we start I would like to point out that at no point would an AFL player survive in the NRL unless an entire off-season was spent hooked to a drip of Createin and bench-pressing everything they came in contact with.
Their frames are not big enough at this point to survive… Manu Vatuvei might actually kill one of them.
However they do possess great skill sets, agility and an absurd level of fitness. Could it just be a case of bulking a select few up?
The rules and strategies of Rugby League are pretty easy to understand in comparison to other sports and could be picked up relatively quickly.
I think this could be a conceivable concept, it may never happen, but lets imagine for a while. Lets just pretend we are at your local, we have had a few pints, we are talking about crazy ideas, everyone loves doing this don’t they?
My number one choice would be Nic Natinui.
Nic would be a natural on the wing; he would be a dominant force in fact. Just think Israel Falau. Nic is 200cm but bucks all of the loping, “gumby” stereotypes that surround anyone that gets above this magic number.
He possesses a standing jump of 78cm and a running leap of 1.03 meters, which are AFL draft camp records. With a run up he is getting to vertigo inducing heights of 3-4 meters in the air.
Imagine him underneath a high ball near the goal line with his ability to either commit to an AFL like pack mark, of which he is notorious, or use his skill as a ruck man to tap it down to a following player.
I cannot think of too many people in the NRL who could defend this sort of vertical assault.
This would also be more pertinent if Perth gets an NRL team. Nic is a marketing teams version of Jesus.
He is instantly recognizable through appearance alone, his hair, his physique and charismatic charm make the concept of him in the NRL instantly feasible. He is the polite almost innocent looking face that rugby league could use to improve its image, which has not been great in recent years.
My second choice would be Cyril Rioli to play at full back.
Think Preston Campbell. Both of them are small men, both have great speed and both can turn on a dime. Cyril would provide another option in the in goal area with a substantial vertical leap or his ability to snipe balls which are tapped to the ground. Cyril also provides another kicking option whether it is for field position or for bombing it into the in-goal area.
My only reservation would be his ability to tackle in the open field if he is left as the last line of defense. His tackling technique would need some serious work.
My third would be Mike Pyke. Luckily for him he already has a pedigree in Rugby and Brad Thorn, Mark Ellis and John Kirwin have shown the jump from Union to League is not to far. He has unbelievable pace, having been one of few men to ever run down Sitiveni Sivivatu.
At 200cm and 104kg you could almost play him anywhere. I would love to see him in the centers, almost like a less talented, melanin-impaired version of Greg Inglis.
Barry Hall is another who would have thrived in rugby league. He already sports an uncanny resemblance to Kevin Campion and has the same compulsion to punch people in the head.
He has a weathered digit that would not be misplaced in any front row and he contains that angry gene which appears to be required for any fat man. Also he would love a sport where he can fight and not be punished so savagely for it.
Here is where I get a touch controversial and AFL fans will lambast me with comments about my idiocy, but hear me out.
Chris Judd and Garry Ablett do not make it.
They are great AFL players and they would offer a great deal in terms of the kicking game. However I do not think that you could transpose an Aussie rules player into the halves in a rugby league team strait away.
The halves offer the direction for the team, they need to be able to create the space required by their outside players. They are the generals.
Think of the really good halves at the moment: Carney, Shaun Johnson and Benji Marshall. They have the ability to run laterally and either explode with a great step and break the line or provide skip passes and wrap around plays to confuse defenses. It seems unless you have played that position for a substantial period of time you will be a jack-of-all-trades but master of nothing. Hayne is my case and point here.
This may seem fanciful but some AFL players could thrive and with the threat of expansion of the NRL competition into the AFL backyards of Adelaide and Perth it may be a great idea.
They would be cult heroes, given that Australians love an under dog or “battler.” The supporters would get behind them in their efforts to conquer something, which, until recently, was completely foreign.
If it is to happen it should be done wisely. Pick those who have a greater chance of succeeding, not just the biggest names. Also pick those who will survive. Remember, they won’t be playing tidily-winks.