The Hayne effect: NFL fever hits Coast as Jarryd makes 49ers

WELCOME PUBLICITY: Spartans Gridiron Club members (from left) Leisa O’Donnell, Myee Kuss and Amy Brown welcome the Jarryd Hayne hype.
WELCOME PUBLICITY: Spartans Gridiron Club members (from left) Leisa O’Donnell, Myee Kuss and Amy Brown welcome the Jarryd Hayne hype. Patrick Woods

REMEMBER the Titans. Any Given Sunday. The Blind Side.

For most of us those films are probably where our knowledge of the extravagant, audacious, indulgent roadshow that is America's pastime stops.

There may be a few of us who are old-school Packers fans or maybe even remember The Comeback Kid himself, Joe Montana, running clinics, but for the majority, American football remains an unknown.

But one man, as we all know, is smashing down the barriers between Australians and the game likened to chess on a football field with the impacts even reaching us here on the Sunshine Coast.

Jarryd Hayne has Australia hooked on gridiron.
Jarryd Hayne has Australia hooked on gridiron. JOHN G. MABANGLO

Hayne-mania has struck both the US and Australia, and there are hopes that the former rugby league superstar could drag a whole generation of youngsters off the couch and into the world of dream chasing.

"After Hayne (San Francisco 49ers and former rugby league star Jarryd Hayne) made the cut we had four or five emails from people saying they were keen to come and play next year," Sunshine Coast Spartans secretary Leisa O'Donnell said.

"We've seen the effects of it already.

"I know there's a couple of league boys keen to play this year now that their season is starting to wrap up too."

The Spartans are a fledgling gridiron outfit based at Sunshine Coast Stadium.

With three teams in their ranks - colts, men's and women's - the Spartans play in the south-east Queensland competition, from as far south as the Gold Coast, west to Toowoomba and at home in Bokarina.

"We've got four home games in October and it'd be great if people interested wanted to come down and see if they like it," Ms O'Donnell said.

Divisional councillor Jason O'Pray said he was one of the converted fans, having watched the recent test match at Sunshine Coast Stadium between Australia and New Zealand. The Jarryd Hayne story has intrigued him.

"It's about a young kid with a goal and a dream and chasing that dream until it becomes a reality... but this is a little bit left-of-centre this one," Cr O'Pray said.

"There's no reason why a Sunshine Coast kid can't do exactly the same thing starting out of a smaller club like the Spartans."

Sunshine Coast Sports Federation executive officer Graeme Murphy wasn't expecting massive numbers of kids to convert to gridiron, but said more rugby league players may consider switching codes.

He said there was a number of hurdles in the way of gridiron becoming a mainstream sport on the Coast, not least the beach lifestyle.

"I don't think gridiron is overly appealing for a lot of mums," Mr Murphy said.

"I expect audiences will increase. I just hope it (Hayne publicity) translates into more kids getting out and playing sport."

Topics:  american football jarryd hayne nfl

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