First it was Andrew Bogut and now it is Jarryd Hayne.
San Francisco sports teams are making a habit of draping their Australian players in secrecy, lies and garbled messages, hoping to use their deception and tricks to keep opponents on the back foot.
Three months ago Golden State Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr looked reporters in the eyes at two separate press conferences and told them his 213cm-Melbourne centre Bogut would be in the starting line-up for game four of the NBA Finals.
“I lied,” Kerr would later confess.
Kerr left Bogut on the bench and with the smaller, faster line-up defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, evened the series 2-2 and went on to claim the NBA Championship.
It was a master move.
In recent days, to a similar room of reporters just 30 minutes drive down the 880 Freeway, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula was being unashamedly evasive about Hayne.
Tomsula and his staff haven’t confirmed publicly if Hayne, the former Parramatta Eel, will play or not in the 49ers’ opening NFL regular season game against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday (Tuesday AEST).
But the coach has set off smoke screens and, interestingly, has been talking down his Australian recruit in the lead-up to the Vikings game.
One of the smoke screens was telling reporters the players have been informed if they will play the Vikings.
However, Hayne, while talking to Australia’s Today Show on Monday AEST, said he still didn’t know if he was suiting up – despite the game being just a day away.
“I still have to get the green light,” Hayne said.
“I don’t know if I’m playing at the moment.”
Tomsula and special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey Jr, in discussing Hayne the past week, emphasised his lack of NFL experience and the blow torch-like bright lights of the US primetime nationally televised Monday Night Football game.
Hayne is no stranger to pressure cooker games, succeeding in State of Origin, international and the NRL Grand Final win with the Eels.
But, if Tomsula and McGaughey Jr are to be believed, the pressure of an NFL regular season game – where “real bullets” are used not “paintball” ammo – is different and could be too much for the rookie Hayne to deal with.
Maybe they are correct and there was an example on Sunday with rookie Phillip Dorsett, the first round draft selection by the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts tossed Dorsett, after a sensational stint at the University of Miami, straight into fire and gave him the punt returning job against the Buffalo Bills.
In the fourth quarter Dorsett muffed a punt, the Bills jumped on the ball, kicked a field goal and sealed the game.
It was a rookie mistake.
The 49ers are expected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL this season and can’t afford those mistakes.
With key players either retiring or fleeing to other clubs, the 49ers are expected to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row.
It’s probably no surprise Tomsula is throwing up smoke screens because the 49ers need any advantage they can get.
If that is the reason for the secrecy, it does confuse the Vikings and deliver a victory, Hayne, Australia and 49er fans won’t mind at all.
Lies and mind games can be OK.
Just ask the thousands of Golden State fans who lined downtown Oakland for their victory parade.