I have always been a rugby league fan, it was only when I discovered my love for NFL that I ‘changed codes’ so to speak. When I heard last year that Jarryd Hayne (National Rugby League player for the Parramatta Eels wanted to start playing American Football, I got pretty excited, even more so when on 3rd March, he was signed to join San Francisco 49ers (admittedly, wasn’t so excited for that part, but it made me dislike the team less).
More recently, I have heard rumours that Tom Burgess (English professional rugby league player currently playing for South Sydney Rabbitohs) has this month been in the USA training with the likes of New York Giants as a Tight End. I’ve also heard he has trained for Jets and Bills, and is continuing his tour of the NFL as I type.
It is a well-known fact that Rugby union and American football share the same origins, but have evolved into very different games – they’re both are very physical and require similar body types.
Jarryd Hayne (fingers crossed for Tom Burgess to follow) was the first Rugby League star to convert to the NFL, but for years Rugby Union players across the world have transferred, with the latest being Australian, Hayden Smith, who played for Saracen’s FC who joined New York Jets in 2012 and is still signed to them today.
In an interview with The Evening Standard, Osi Umenyiora former defensive end for the New York Giants, said English rugby players have the “physicality” to play American football:
“Maybe we can get some players from there. There are a lot of similarities. Players who play rugby can absolutely play [American] football and we need some of those guys. It is similar in physicality. American football is more physical because we have equipment. It almost gives you a feeling of invincibility. It is different but rugby is also a tough, difficult game.”
Fingers crossed, with the Rugby World Cup behind us, Umenyiora can help us with our quest of promoting the game here in the UK and convince some players along the way to make the move.
Let’s watch this space.