The youngest of the major American sports, the game of American football in its modern form has just a few decades of history.
Even its famed championship game, the Super Bowl, lays claims to just 50 editions as of this year as compared to the century or more enjoyed by organizations such as Major League Baseball and the Premier League in its various forms.
Nevertheless, the fierce physical competition, explosive athleticism and intricate human chess match that comprise the National Football League game have made the sport into an ever-growing international phenomenon as well as the most popular events with US friendly online bookmakers. Along with the longstanding global fanbases of flagship franchises like the Dallas Cowboys and the success of the league’s series of regular season games in London, the recent influx of players from around the world stand as testament to the popularity of the sport.
International players have a strong history in the NFL from Denmark’s Morten Anderson, the league’s all time leading scorer as a kicker to longtime standout Vietnamese-born linebacker Dat Nguyen, and the latest example of global talents finding their way to the gridiron game is in the case of Australian rugby legend Jarryd Hayne.
Following a distinguished career with the Parramatta Eels of the National Rugby League as well as significant accolades garnered in international play, Hayne elected to ply his skills as a bruising runner in the role of a kick returner for the San Francisco 49ers during the 2015 season.
The 49ers represent another of the NFL’s premier franchises, with fans across the country as well as around the world supporting the claret-clad side. The popularity of the team ensured plenty of coverage for the Hayne throughout the preseason, where Hayne turned heads with his natural affinity for the game.
After an inauspicious beginning in which the former rugby all-star mishandled an early regular season punt, costing his team a much-needed possession, Hayne quickly found his bearings in the new field, maturing into a feared special teams contributor as well as a vital part of the 49ers offensive attack. Hayne’s speed and agility make him a threat to score on any return, and so teams have begun to kick the ball away from him to deny him the chance to strike.
The next challenge for the Australian import comes against a countryman, as the return specialist faces off against Aussie punter Brad Wing and the New York Giants. Wing is known for his accurate and effective punting, leading the league in punts downed inside the opponent’s 20 yard line, but a featured broadcast stage means that former Australian national team member will enjoy an excellent opportunity to shine for an international audience.
While the transition from rugby to American football is less than ideal for Hayne and his frequently overmatched 49ers, his early success in the game is a positive sign for the sport at large. As the NFL career of Jarryd Hayne continues to unfold, more and more new viewers around the globe will be exposed to the addictive fury of the NFL game thanks to the international audience his illustrious rugby career has earned him, protecting the future of the sport with a new generation of NFL dreams around the world.