Jarryd Hayne’s shock move to ditch his NFL career for a tilt at playing Sevens for Fiji at the Rio Olympics has a lot of people asking a lot of questions.
South Sydney owner Russell Crowe said “I thought his lifelong dream was to play in the NFL? I wonder what his next lifelong dream is going to be?”
Former ASADA boss Richard Ings asked @WorldRugby7s in a tweet whether they would veto Hayne from playing because he hasn’t fulfilled World Rugby’s required six months of testing to be eligible.
More Jarryd Hayne:
» Hayne cleared by World Rugby to compete at Rio
» “Half a million, wow”: Hayne unaware of secret $500,000 deals
» Why Hayne shouldn’t make the Fiji sevens side
» NFL to the Olympics, but where will the Hayne Plane land in 2017?
» Jarryd Hayne announces NFL retirement, aims for Olympic Games
News Corp columnist Mike Coleman asked several questions about what’s next for Hayne: “Wimbledon? Tour de France? How about swimming the English Channel?”
The news has spawned a plethora of dream memes and conspiracy theories, with many suggesting it’s a face-saving move by a Hayne not confident of making the 49ers final cut under new coach Chip Kelly.
The man himself said in a statement “I am retiring from the NFL because the Fiji Rugby Sevens team reached out to me about the opportunity to join the team for the upcoming Olympics, and I simply could not pass that chance up.
“The Olympics has been something I have admired since I was a little boy, and it is an opportunity I feel very similar to me joining the NFL.”
Which does beg the question that if Hayne was fair dinkum, why didn’t he investigate the option a little sooner. He has just one World Sevens Series tournament left, in London this weekend, to try his hand at a game he has never played before in a bid to break into the best team in the world at it.
It’s not as if the Rio Games are a last-minute addition to the 2016 sporting calendar.
Whatever the reasons for the surprise move, there’s two questions from me.
A practical one, of is Hayne going to be good enough to make the Fiji squad?
And an ethical one of if he’s good enough, should he be picked?
On the first question Fiji Sevens coach Ben Ryan was at pains to dampen expectations the 28-year-old will simply walk into his Olympic squad.
“In other news – Jarryd Hayne joins us in camp for London 7s. 14 players to contest the 12 sports for last tournament of @WorldRugby7s,” Ryan said on Twitter.
“I have no promises he is going to make the 12 [for Rio], but we will see how he goes,” he was quoted in the press as saying.
“He will then come into Fijian camp for the Olympic period. It is a huge challenge for Jarryd but if he gets into the squad it is only going to be on form, because he is a blinding rugby player.
“If he doesn’t make it, it just shows how good this Fijian sevens side is. It is a no-lose situation for me,” Ryan said.
Hayne was a phenomenal rugby league player, but that alone is no prerequisite to being an elite union sevens player.
Even being a great rugby union playmaker was not enough for Quade Cooper to make the grade in sevens.
Sevens is not so much an abbreviated form of 15s, it’s 15s on steroids with every player needing superbly blended skills sets that combine back play and forward play.
Although there’s forwards and backs in sevens every player has to be great at everything: running, passing, catching, defending, taking the ball into contact, cleaning out rucks, contesting ruck ball, defending rucks, mauling etc, etc.
Hayne has never had to do half of this and would need to get his head around rugby’s perpetual motion – where every play is a constant contest for the ball.
Stop-start league is a world away from this while mostly stop and a little bit start NFL resides in another planetary system.
And even if he could get his head and body around all this virtually immediately, will he be aerobically fit enough?
There’s few, if any team sports of any code more aerobically taxing than rugby sevens. You and just six of your mates on a wide open 100m by 50m field having to do all of the above in up to six games over a two-day tournament in some seriously hot countries.
It couldn’t be any more different than what Hayne has just come from – the ultra specialised NFL where he was required to train to do a few things really well for short, sharp anaerobic busts of action.
But let’s say hypothetically that Hayne’s freakish footballing abilities – because that is certainly what they are – are enough to get him over the line for selection into the 12-man Fiji squad for the Olympics.
This selection would be at the expense of a player who has given his all for the Fijian cause, most likely in countless games over numerous tournaments.
Would it be right to suddenly strip him of the chance to represent his beloved nation at the biggest sporting show on earth where he has an opportunity to win his country its first ever Olympic medal – in anything?
In his storied league career Hayne won fame, riches and virtually every award going, A World Cup with Australia, numerous Dally Ms and players of the year, he’s played State of Origin and an NRL grand final. And he’ll almost certainly go back to restart his NRL career in 2017, once he’s used Fiji to fulfil his Olympic “dream”.
Of course life’s not fair and sport certainly isn’t, but that just doesn’t seem right.
What say you Roarers?