The San Francisco 49ers in March signed Australian rugby superstar Jarryd Hayne to a three year deal worth more than $1.5 million. Now, after three preseason games and more than a month of practices as he attempts to jump from Australia’s National Rugby League to the United States’ National Football League, Hayne appears poised to survive the team’s next two rounds of player cuts and make the 53-man Week One San Francisco roster.
“Jarryd’s obviously got himself in the conversation,” said 49ers Coach Jim Tomsula after Hayne saw limited action in Saturday’s game preseason game against the Denver Broncos. “I don’t want to sit here and make statements today but he’s definitely got himself in the conversation.”
The 49ers are set to trim their 90-man preseason roster down to 75 on Tuesday, and then to the regulation 53 two days later.
Though San Francisco inserted Hayne — a two time National Rugby League Player of the Year and star of his home country’s World Cup rugby team, as well — as a running back in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game in Denver, he is expected to see most of his action on special teams, returning punts.
While the 49ers took a gamble in signing Hayne, who had never played American football before, Hayne is also betting in himself in electing to leave his native Australia and a sport at which he ranks among the world’s best players, to break into the NFL.
The 27-year-old, who starred for the Parramatta Eels of the National Rugby League, reportedly turned his back on an NRL-record $1.35 million contract that would have kept him in Australia — and according to a report in Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, sold his million-dollar home in Sydney, Australia, just last week.
Outwardly, however, Hayne says he has no expectations about whether or not he’ll survive the 49ers roster cuts.
“I don’t control the future so I’m not worrying about something I don’t control,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. “I’m happy coming over here and doing what I’ve been able to do the last couple of games. I put my best foot forward, I’ve felt, and if the coaches like it, they like it.”
So far, Tomsula seems to like it, though the coach remains careful not to make any commitments until the cuts are officially announced.
“Special teams value is very high when you are talking about the last few spots on the team,” Tomsula said.
The San Francisco 49ers play their final preseason game on September 3, against the San Diego Chargers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara — site of this season’s Super Bowl next February — and if Jarryd Hayne is still on the team, he is expected to see significant playing time in that game.
[Images: Lachlan Cunningham / Ashley Feder / Getty Images]