Will Hayne make it – What the numbers say

Plenty has been said about Jarryd Hayne’s defection to the United States. A lot has revolved around whether he could make it in the NFL.

The question shouldn’t be; “Does he have the talent?” He’s answered that himself. The issue for Hayne is that he’s facing off against players who have played the game for over a decade and who would be much less of a gamble than him.

But enough of the human perceptions and guessing, what are the mathematical chances of Hayne making it onto an NFL roster?

What first must be taken into consideration is that America has a population of over 300 million people.

The NFL is one of only three major sports, the other two being baseball and basketball.

As a consequence, the NFL has a massive pool of players to select from, much larger than that of the NRL.

In 2012 there were 67,887 players involved in American college football. All of them want to play professionally.

The NFL drafted just 253 or 0.37% of the players playing college football. Two years on and only 170 remain active players on an NFL roster. That’s a minute 0.25% of those players actually making a career out of the NFL

The “excess” 83 are either practice squad members, undrafted free agents or they have retired.

And these are players who have played the game their entire lives and are simply told they aren’t good enough.

Hayne’s acknowledged the massive challenge that’s ahead of him.

To further investigate his chances, let’s have a look at the current rosters.

There are 32 teams in the NFL, each with 53 players. That’s a total of 1696 players currently active.

There are roughly 464 players who occupy the positions of running back, wide receiver, safety and kick returner. The positions that Hayne is rumoured to be most interested and/or capable of playing.

Each side has between 3-5 running backs, 4-7 wide receivers and 3-6 safeties. Kick returners tend to double as running backs or wide receivers.

What does all that mean for Hayne? Well, each side is going to have virtually locked in two first choice running backs, 3-4 wide receivers and at least three safeties.

Hypothetically, Hayne could have a shot at filling one of nine open positions on each roster, totaling 288 free positions across the NFL.

Of course those are all estimates, not every franchise is going to cut that many players every season.

Hayne would also be competing with 100 practice squad members who play in his preferred positions and who have been training alongside an NFL squad.

I would ideally like to be able to narrow it down to a percentage chance for Jarryd to one day run out onto the NFL field, however with player movements and the unknown quantity of free agents that is nigh on impossible.

Hayne will also be doing what hundreds of other undrafted free agents will be doing. Training to get a shot at the Detroit combine.

Similar to the College combine, this combine is for those players who are free agents and are looking for another shot. It’s strictly invite only with players having to get through a regional combine first.

There’s also one thing that statistics can’t predict and that’s human curiosity. Hayne’s produced a lot of interest in himself and there just may be an NFL recruiter who is prepared to take a punt on him given his reputation.

This piece isn’t de-riding Hayne’s chances, it’s just putting them in perspective. Hayne’s task is rather simple. He has to get himself noticed.

If he can prove that he would be a useful player in two positions, he’d be in with a more than fair shot. His marketability to Australia puts him in a unique position among those athletes and may just be what pushes him over the line.

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Rep. Round Needs a Re-Work

The NRL has issued a please explain notice to a number of clubs following the miraculous recovery of a number of players ruled out due to injury over the representative weekend.

Injuries are part and parcel of the game and looking at punishing teams for looking after their players seems a little heavy handed.

If teams are resting players due to the representative weekend then the rep. weekend format needs to be looked at. Fining clubs will not solve the issue.

If players are deciding they’d rather spend time on the sidelines than represent City-Country then the issue clearly falls with the NRL.

The players are contracted to their club and, barring injury or suspension, are expected to play in all matches they are available for.

Scheduling extra matches in the season greatly increases the chance for injury. If, say Jarryd Hayne or Nathan Peats were to be injured in the representative weekend, Parramatta’s season would suffer.

I’ve enjoyed watching City-Country over the years but it’s no longer a trial for State of Origin as it once was. Queensland don’t have City-Country and they seem to be doing pretty well.

The NRL have also suggested that they will suspend players for one week should the player avoid representative duties due to a supposed “injury”.

However, as Tim Mannah explained on Triple M, the decision is the club doctor’s and not the player’s. Mannah was withheld from City-Country due to a burst eardrum but said he felt like he could’ve played and was disappointed to be declared unavailable.

So how does the NRL deal with this? They’re not the only competition to be interrupted by an International round. European football have international breaks around December and Super Rugby has Internationals during their season.

The issue the NRL has is they have the Origin series to deal with. A suggested idea is to have a full representative weekend. Play Origin as the marquee game on a Friday night, City-Country on Saturday night played by fringe Origin players, play a Kiwis Vs Combined Polynesian team on the Sunday afternoon and play the Under 20’s Origin on the same weekend.

Those are some ideas that would obviously need tweaking but the representative weekend in the first quarter of the season is coming to an end.

The NRL Judiciary has Overreacted

When Jordan McLean joined into that tackle on Alex McKinnon, few realised how the two men’s careers would change forever. One in hospital and may never walk again.

The other, handed a seven week suspension and lumped with the sole responsibility for that tackle.

The judiciary and match review committee were both handed the unenviable task of grading and then hearing the defence of McLean. He was going to be suspended, of that there was no doubt.

However, the severity of that suspension was not foreseen. Personally I had assumed he’d either be handed a grade one or grade two dangerous throw charge, served one week and be back playing.

In my honest opinion, the judiciary has made an highly emotional judgement, based primarily on the result of the tackle, rather than the tackle itself.

I saw the tackle as it happened, there was no malice; no intent to cause harm. In fact, it looked as though the Melbourne players were trying to get McKinnon to ground as soon as they realised they had him in an awkward position.

I have seen many worse spear tackles handed lesser suspensions. Richie Fa’aoso’s dual tackles on Greg Inglis netted him less, Luke O’Donnell’s tackle on Darius Boyd in State of Origin was also deemed less malicious.

I would also like to add that Jordan McLean was not the only player involved in the tackle. The Bromwich brothers were both involved and not charged. Essentially, the NRL has singled out McLean as the only factor involved that created the dangerous position.

I am neither a Storm or Newcastle fan, I am a fan of rugby league. I do not believe that McLean has been given a fair hearing in this case. There was a range of factors that led to McKinnon’s injury and Jordan McLean has been singled out for it.

The game has let McLean down in this instance and the judiciary has made a judgement, more on emotion and subjectivity, rather than the objectivity and transparency that they are supposed to represent.

Is Rugby League in an era of elite halfbacks?

When you look through the history of rugby league each decade is seemingly dominated by two-three halfbacks who lead their sides to glory and turn the game on it’s collective head.

Bob Grant and Tommy Raudonikis ruled the roost in the 1970’s with Raudonikis staking his claim at the top of the pile until the 1980’s. The 80’s were a decade for two legendary halfbacks who led their sides to multiple premierships.

Peter Sterling and Steve Mortimer were the halfbacks at Parramatta and Canterbury respectively. Sterling, arguably the smartest player the game’s ever seen, led the his legendary team of Eels to four Premierships with Mortimer also doing the same at Canterbury. The two would regularly fight it out for NSW and Australian rep. duties.

The 1990’s saw the rise of Geoff Toovey, Ricky Stuart, Jason Taylor and Allan Langer. All four were immensley talented ball-players with terrific kicking games. Taylor retired as rugby league’s all-time leading point scorer: he currently sits third, behind Andrew Johns and Hazem El Masri.

At the turn of the millennium it was the great Andrew Johns who took over the mantle. Although debuting in the mid-nineties and winning a premiership, it was in the early 2000’s where Johns cemented his legendary status.

Leading the Knights to a second premiership in 2001 over the record breaking Parramatta Eels, as well as ushering in a strong period of NSW dominance. The Blues are yet to win a series without Johns at halfback. He became the eighth rugby league immortal in 2012.

Now, nearly halfway through this decade, the NRL is blessed with a number of talented halfbacks. Some who will go down as greats, others keen to cement themselves in rugby league history.

Johnathan Thurston took over from Johns as the game’s premier halfback, leading North Queensland to their first ever Grand Final, Queensland to an unprecedented length of dominance and Australia to two World Cup finals.

In the past two years though he has moved to five-eighth due to the retirement of the legendary Darren Lockyer.

Assuming the role of Australian halfback is Cooper Cronk. One of rugby league’s most consistent performers who has one of the greatest kick games that rugby league has ever seen.

Rising to challenge Cronk’s hold on the Queensland and Australian number 7 is Daly Cherry-Evans who, at the age of 25, has played in two Grand Finals, winning one, an Origin series, winning that and a World Cup which he also won.

Not quite on the same level as the three mentioned above is Shaun Johnson. The freakishly talented Kiwi debuted at the age of 20 for the Warriors and led his team to the grand final where they were defeated by Manly. Johnson has also cemented himself as New Zealand’s starting halfback.

Adam Reynolds is the most inexperienced of this group but, in his short two season career he has played in two preliminary finals. He has already been earmarked as a future halfback for the Blues, playing City Origin in 2013. South Sydney’s 41 year hunt for another premiership rests on his shoulders.

With that talented collection of halfbacks all still playing in the NRL would it be reasonable to assume that rugby league is in a golden era for halfbacks? For it is not like in years gone by when the older halfbacks are on the decline and the younger ones have pushed them out of the lime-light. 

Cooper Cronk is still the first choice halfback in Australia with Thurston the first choice five-eighth. Whilst Cherry-Evans has played for both his state and country he hasn’t pushed Cronk out of the side based on form, he’s either played off the bench or in lesser matches when Cronk has been rested.

And as an aside to this; will we see Cherry-Evans rise to the pinnacle of his game and face off against Reynolds in State of Origin in years to come, with Shaun Johnson leading the way for thee Kiwis? Only time will tell.

 

Who are your favourite players?

We could discuss the greatest players of all time for the rest of our lives. But everyone has their favourites. So just who are your favourite rugby league players of all time? I’ll post mine below.

1. Nathan Hindmarsh (Parramatta Eels)

The long haired second rower with the funny bum had a work ethic unmatched in the rugby league world.

A barnstorming second rower in his early days, Hindmarsh moved to the middle of the field later in his career and his defence became his greatest asset.

Many a time he was the last man chasing a runaway winger, forcing him to touch down out wide rather than under the posts.

His ability to pull off that try-saving tackle was unbelievable, often coming from nowhere to either drag his opposition down or hold him up.

The care free attitude of “Hindy” was also an endearing quality and his imitation of Jamie Soward in his farewell match was just icing on the cake.

2. Andrew Johns (Newcastle Knights)

Off-field dramas aside, “Joey”  was a fantastic and exciting player to watch. His ability to control a match practically on his own is nearly unparalleled in the modern game.

It pains me to say this but his performance in the 2001 Grand Final was sublime. I’m a Parramatta fan but Johns tore my beloved Eels to shreds in the first 40 minutes.

Joey was also a symbol of greatness for all New South Welshmen. He dominated Queensland and by the end of his career was probably the most respected Blues man north of the border. Even if those cane toads don’t show it.

3. Darren Lockyer (Brisbane Broncos)

Where would Brisbane be without their future immortal? Lockyer drove not only Brisbane, but Queensland and Australia as well to long periods of dominance.

He proved he was the best in the world in two positions and was a true gentleman of the game.

I’ll never forget how he got Brisbane out of jail against the Eels in 2008. He wasn’t even supposed to play the game but his perfectly weighted kick on full time delivered the Broncos an unbelievable four point win.

He adapted and played to his strengths meaning he went out on top of his game. Once blessed with quick feet and the ability to glide across the field, age caught up with him.

But where his feet grew slow his mind grew fast. He developed one of the greatest kicking and passing games that rugby league will ever see. Effortless and pinpoint accurate.

4. Jason Smith (Canterbury, Parramatta, North Queensland, Canberra)

One of the toughest players in the modern era, he left his mark at each of his four Australian clubs. Blessed with some of the softest hands and an unbelievable timing that belied his oft. frequented position of lock, Smith was one player I really respected.

I remember some of his time at Parramatta and how he would command the ball, time and again putting his outside backs through the smallest of gaps.

His toughness allowed him to leave his passes until the final second, often seeing him pummelled by defenders but managing to put his man into space. A trait still not seen in most halves today.

He did all this on a diet of cigarettes, beer and meat pies. The last I heard of Jason was him playing Country rugby league. Setting up a few tries before being sent off after punching one of his opponents.

5. Luke Burt (Parramatta Eels)

The diminutive back is a legend out Parramatta way and one of the Eels’ most loyal servants. His career saw the end of the small outside backs and the rise of the freakish super athletes in the modern game.

Although he was small Burt had an amazing turn of speed which he carried throughout his career and what he lacked in size he made up for with his brain. In another life he would’ve been a perfect halfback. A position he played in once and the Eels won.

He had a near sixth sense of how to out-smart the opposition. I still remember when, on a last tackle against the Bulldogs, he spotted a set of tired markers and no fullback at home. He stabbed a grubber in behind the line and scored un-challenged.

At one point he made a habit of beating the first defender on almost every one of his kick returns during his peak.

A consistent goal kicker, Burt was underrated in that department, yet many a time he landed the pressure kick from the sideline. You can have your Yow-Yeh’s and Ferguson’s, I’ll take Burt any day.

Rugby League World Cup Final Preview

Tonight it comes to an end. Australia Vs New Zealand, the Kangaroos Vs the Kiwis. Rugby League’s biggest rivalry will close out this year’s world cup. So will it be the Aussies who yet again raise the trophy, or will the boys from “across the dutch” make it two in a row?

For the first time in their history, New Zealand have selected a squad made entirely of regular NRL first-graders. In past years their selection of players from the English Super League has meant that they have lacked the polish of the Australians.

For Australia, they carry one of the best spines of the modern era. With Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston leading the team they are a formidable outfit.

The Kiwis will look to use their size as well as their skillful back-rowers. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is their enforcer, if there is something happening you can bet JWH will be in the middle of it.

Sonny Bill Williams needs no introduction. The RLIF International Player of the Year has been in superb form since his return to rugby league. He has showcased his unbelievable array of skill and power, leaving many defenders in his wake.

New Zealand will call on the impressive Isaac Luke at hooker with Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran in the halves. Foran as been arguably the best performing five-eighth in 2013, combining his superb ball-playing and kicking skills with incredibly physical defence.

Australia will start as they always do, looking to engage the opposition in an arm-wrestle. The Kangaroos are virtually unbeatable when they are able to play at their own piece and use their skill and experience to grind the opposition down.

Both Thurston and Cronk possess kicking games that control matches and they will look to blunt the kick returns of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Manu Vatuvei and Kevin Locke. The well oiled machine that is the Kangaroos will want to get early ball to both Jarryd Hayne and Greg Inglis.

Hayne has had an unbelievable campaign, scoring nine tries in four games to be the competition’s leading try-scorer. Inglis too has been a handful, with six offloads and eight try-assists.

New Zealand will be a tough opposition and should they win would be more than worthy world champions. However I believe that Australia has slightly better organisation and an ability to win from any position.

I see this as being a tough fought affair, Australia 26-22.

Australian Team:

1. Billy Slater

2. Brett Morris

3. Greg Inglis

4. Jarryd Hayne

5. Darius Boyd

6. Johnathan Thurston

7. Cooper Cronk

8. Matt Scott

9. Cameron Smith

10. James Tamou

11. Greg Bird

12. Sam Thaiday 

13. Paul Gallen

14. Daly Cherry-Evans

15. Josh Papalii

16. Andrew Fifita

17. Corey Parker

Coach: Tim Sheens

New Zealand Team:

1. Kevin Locke

2. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

3. Dean Whare

4. Bryson Goodwin

5. Manu Vatuvei

6. Kieran Foran

7. Shaun Johnson

8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

9. Isaac Luke

10. Jesse Bromwich 

11. Simon Mannering

12. Sonny Bill Williams

13. Elijah Taylor

14. Frank-Paul Nu’uausala

15. Sam Kasiano

16. Ben Mautlino

17. Alex Glenn

Coach: Stephen Kearney.

Slater injury may be blessing in disguise

When Billy Slater went down early in the second half the armchair coaches went searching for as many weird and wonderful situations to settle the whole issue of the “greatest fullback in the game’s” injury.

So far we’ve heard the Brent Tate may play in the forwards. We’ve also heard Michael Jennings playing on the wing and Josh Morris playing there as well.

None of these drastic changes needs to happen. Greg Inglis will play at fullback, there’s no doubt about that. Jarryd Hayne should be in the team, he’s a proven match winner and has valuable utility ability.

Inglis and Hayne are terrifically talented players. Strong, powerful, fast and versatile, they can tear apart any team on their day. With Inglis going to fullback he’ll be more involved than he is when he’s playing centre.

It’s hard enough to contain him when he’s playing out wide but at fullback he has a lot of room to move. Hayne should be given a licence to roam. He plays that role often for NSW and his ability to create something from nothing is lethal.

If Hayne and Inglis were to strike up a combination they could quite easily tear apart Fiji and either England or New Zealand.

Michael Jennings would be a positive selection to partner Hayne in the centres. The Roosters flyer is a terrific attacking weapon who, when given space, can turn his opposite inside out with his speed and power. Josh Morris is another who can fill the position and would do a more than impressive job there.

Brent Tate could play on the wing or in the centres and he has plenty of experience in both positions, having played there for Brisbane, Queensland and Australia in the past. Tim Sheens has some of the most versatile and talented backs the game has seen at his disposal.

Billy Slater’s injury could quite easily see both Hayne and Inglis have a more profound effect on Australia’s campaign than Slater himself. Both men contain more pure talent than Slater and their ability to beat numerous defenders means they can split a game wide open.

People shouldn’t be looking at Slater’s injury as a let down, more as a chance to see two of the most talented players in the game make their mark on this year’s world cup.

Inglis using his trademark right fend

Hayne crossing for one of his four tries against the U.S