It’s a path that we’ve pondered over many times before, but one that surprisingly few have taken. We all know that rugby league players are tough, but are they tough enough to make it in the NFL? Well, as we said, very few have played both codes, and we have yet to see anything that resembles a success. Nevertheless, as you’ll see from our list below, there’s hope yet.
You may never have heard his name, but Manfred Moore was the first man to play in both the NFL and Rugby League in Australia. Moore was a running back for the San Francisco 49ers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Oakland Raiders (with whom he won the Super Bowl in 1977). His appearance at the Super Bowl caught the eye of Newtown Jets scouts, and the move was set in motion.
Moore was unfazed by the change to league and made his debut on the wing against the Western Suburbs at Henson Park. He even managed to score a try, becoming the only player to score both a try in the Australian rugby league and a touchdown in the NFL. He also famously accepted a challenge to throw a ball over the stand at Henson Park, and, to this day, it’s something that Jets fans still talk about . Moore only played a short league career, returning to the NFL after receiving a cut above his eye in a match against Cronulla.
While all the off-season talk was about whom the Jets would trade back from the No.3 pick, the New York franchise surprised us all with the signing of Valentine Holmes as an overseas player. Holmes walked away from a $5 million contract with Cronulla to join the Jets, turning his back on the NRL in the process. He has yet to make an appearance, and cannot for the 2019 season, but reports suggest that he has every chance of making the cut. The man obviously loves the NFL, since he has taken a massive pay cut to play in the Jets’ practice squad.
Former South Sydney Rabbitohs player Jordan Mailata was picked in round 7 of the NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. Like Holmes, Mailata progressed through the NFL’s International Pathway program, which involves a three-month training camp in Florida. However, unlike Holmes, Mailata had no interest in the NFL until he was invited to join the program. In fact, he himself admits that he had a very loose grasp of the rules of the game before training camp. He must have done pretty well, though, as he is now signed to the Eagles’ 53-man roster.
There’s a lot of talk that Mailata could be the real deal. Although he played no competitive games last season, he’s very highly thought of in the NFL ranks. At only 22, he has plenty of time ahead of him to make his mark.
There was a time not so long ago that we (with tongue firmly in cheek) told you of Jarryd Hayne’s wishes to be the next Usain Bolt. That was, of course, fake news, but it was inspired by the journeyman’s flirting with the NFL just a few years previously. Yes, we’ve all heard the story by now, but we’ll just recap.
Back in 2014, Hayne was reportedly offered a contract worth $1.35 million per season. This would have made him the biggest earner in the NRL by a long shot—but our Jarryd had other ideas. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers and made the 53-man roster. He played preseason and impressed, but in competitive games he was bang average. He was demoted to the practice squad before having another run in the 53-man roster due to injuries on the first team. In May 2016 Hayne announced his retirement after just one year. Word has it that he is now looking at playing soccer! He’s a sporting nomad personified.
While Hayne and Moore ultimately failed to make the change, there’s still hope that Mailata and Holmes will make their mark following their sporting career moves. The NFL is a tough one, though, and if either makes a success of their American football careers, we’ll be hugely impressed. A league player at the Super Bowl would be something to see.