The Roar
The Roar


Exhibition matches are a bad idea in the USA – just look at the Wallabies!

Jarryd Hayne returns a punt for the San Francisco 49ers. Will he make it to the Olympics? (Photo: AP)
Roar Pro
16th September, 2015

The NRL has blocked a planned exhibition match between the Penrith Panthers and Brisbane Broncos in Hawaii. This may not be a bad idea.

To consider Hawaii a litmus Test for the US is misguided at best.

In all honesty, a Super Rugby team would probably do the best of all potential Australian sports owing to the large population of Pacific iIslanders. Does that mean the contiguous states would be a haven for union, who knows?

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To put in perspective, Hawaii sits closer to Tokyo (6204km) than it does to New york (7990km) yet still is an equal member of the union along with the other 49 states. I’m also sure they eat sushi in Hawaii, and yet I have no idea how sumo wrestling would go in Hawaii.

But, and this is important, to suggest the rest of the US would embrace it seems especially naïve – the sport may be absolutely loved by the lower 48 states, but I would not put the house on it. And that’s the key point right there. I wouldn’t put the house on it.

Likewise, league in Hawaii is mostly irrelevant. With a population of 1.4 million (a substantial amount by any reckoning), it still pales in insignificance to the potential 300 million living elsewhere in the US territories (and I’m not getting into a debate about American samoa or Guam). So we are left with a potentially great, or not so great, turn out for an exhibition match in Hawaii.

Either a sold out game or an empty stadium would leave the NRL in much the same position. The question of whether to push into the mainland would remain unanswered.

Additional factors always play their part, and for all intents and purposes, the AFL is ‘ahead’; as such the NRL must catch up. I’m not quite sure what the NRL needs to catch up on, but I believe it to be on an economical and business level.


If only they had a magical, once in a lifetime springboard of opportunity to massively raise the potential supporter base of its game.

Oh wait, they do. He is called Jarryd Hayne – a San Franciscan foothold in the lower 48 states.

Surely there must be a way to generate interest and as a result, revenue, from such an icon of the game.

Surely he, above all, represents the absolute best of Australian sporting prowess. Spectacularly Australian he faced the steepest of learning curves and somehow came through it with both modesty and humilty.

I love the bloke. I may be misguided and delusional, but I want him to succeed.

So badly do I want him to be the greatest player the NFL has ever seen. To be safe in the knowledge that he wasn’t even our best. He was just the one we sent.

Ok, so that is a little unfair, he was (maybe, disputedly) our best, but god I want him to succeed. In a way, I want him to succeed because he has that thing that I prize most in life – my respect.

So, in short, here it is. My three point thought process.


1. I really want Hayne to do well.
2. I want league to capitalise upon this. Once again, I’m not sure how they can do this, but informing the NFL he is ‘Australian’ as opposed to a Kiwi is probably a start.

And …

3. I want the yanks to appreciate that our sporting talent (long exemplified at the Olympics) is as good as any US talent they can import or produce on their own.

For all of these reasons and many more, and I haven’t even dug into the player welfare stuff which seems awfully important around Origin time and yet awkwardly missing from anything outside those special six weeks, an exhibition game might not be such a great idea.

But, what remains after a discarded exhibition match is a way into this elusive American market.

And I have no thoughts on how that might be achieved.

What do you think?

Seriously, how do we get into this American market?