Lets not get too far ahead of ourselves just now. Jarryd Hayne did very well in his first pre season match for the San Francisco 49ers but he still has a long way to go. It was important for him to show the club he had raw athletic talent, and he more than did that.
Hayne generated some interest….as much interest as you can in a pre season game, and it makes me wonder if the NRL is looking at this as a door opening to a new market.
If Hayne were to move beyond a project and find himself in the 49ers squad for the NFL season, he is going to be talked about, even if he doesn’t take a single snap this season. Hayne will do media interviews, he will be talked about by commentators, and even if only a tiny percentage of people that take all of this in decide to check out where he came from, that might be enough for the NRL to get a foot in the door in a new market.
If the NRL isn’t putting plans in place for a pre season game in San Francisco, they are not doing their job. Rugby League in Australia needs to think outside the box if it wants to continue to grow. Australia and New Zealand can only give you a market so big before you hit saturation point. New markets need to be explored, and Jarryd Hayne may just be opening a new market for the game with his stint in the NFL.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “You’ve gone from one pre season game to looking to expand the comp! Pump the brakes Freaky!”.
With a close on $2 billion broadcasting deal close to being finalized, Rugby League is sorted on the home front. The days of the NRL living hand to mouth are over. The game is now in a position to not only fund expansion, but to undertake extremely exciting expansion options by completely funding clubs in new markets in an effort to not only expand their media reach, but expand the game in general.
If we can afford to spend $12 million a year from the broadcasting deal on a bunch of current clubs who struggle to attract 10,000 through the gates, is it really a bad thing that we might decide to spend $12 million on a club in an exciting new area that could reap incredible benefits for the entire game one day?
The west coast of the United States is a hell of a lot easier to get to than England or France. The trip isn’t a great deal worse than the one that “Super” rugby teams undertake between New Zealand and South Africa. Sure, its a long flight, but this is professional sport. When you’re earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to play sport, you find a way to get over your jet lag!
Rugby League desperately needs some excitement added to it. Its a funny sport like that. Its needs a focus. It needs something it can play with from time to time.
It is certainly way too early to be thinking about having an NRL expansion club on the west coast of the United States, but if that is EVER going to happen, if its EVER going to be a possibility…surely now is the moment that the NRL would take the first step and at the very least gauge interest in the bay area by setting up an NRL trial match there and seeing if there is some sort of possible market there for the future.
The alternative is to allow an NRL superstar to get a huge amount of exposure in a new market and do nothing at all to capitalize on that. To me, THAT would be madness…
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com