NRL boss Dave Smith has been urged to embrace ‘Haynemania’ — or risk having it hijacked by the NFL.
As Jarryd Hayne pushes closer to an NFL contract with the San Francisco 49ers, the 27-year-old has been dubbed the greatest rugby league advertisement in more than 100 years.
Speaking with The Daily Telegraph, US league pioneer David Niu said NRL officialdom had to “get ahead of the Hayne story” or risk having it taken from them.
“The publicity and exposure Jarryd Hayne could generate for rugby league, it’s immeasurable,” Niu said. “Think about it.
“In the NFL, every game of every round is like an NRL Grand Final. It’s that big here.
“So this Hayne story, it could end up way bigger than anyone can imagine. Better, the media and marketing opportunity for league comes at mate’s rates … absolutely free.
“But they have to handle it the right way, right now. Otherwise, it might be out of their hands once the NFL comes knocking Down Under.
“If I was in charge of the NRL I’d have my top football man leading the charge to get in front of this story.”
A former first grader with St George, Niu moved to the United States in 1993 and established the American National Rugby League (AMNRL).
Despite having recently stepped down from the top post, after almost 20 years, to focus on other business interests, Niu wants league officials in both countries to benefit from Hayne’s journey.
“Already, Jarryd’s impact in the US has been significant,” he continued
“And you can bet your last dollar every General Manager is now going to look across the ocean and find out who else might be able make their roster better.
“But Jarryd, he’s ensured the NRL has an open invitation to start the conversation.
“And remember that the NFL and NRL, their seasons don’t directly compete. So who knows, there may be a pathway there? Each way.
“Hayne’s journey certainly opens up a whole world of possibilities on both ends of the spectrum; from new players and fans, to global sponsorship and TV contracts.”
Originally published as NRL could hitch a ride on the Hayne Plane