The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

BOLD SERVE OF CHI­NESE

- JEREMY PIERCE

“So we’re sit­ting there and he’s telling me sto­ries about Favre. I’ve just gone ‘ mate, I don’t know who he is’.

“It wasn’t re­ally my con­cern at that mo­ment.

“But how in­ter­ested Finchy was in him, I was amazed.

“There was noth­ing else do­ing so I had to sit down and watch it.’’

Hayne al­ready con­sid­ered him­self a Dal­las Cowboys fan – as much as one can when they haven’t watched a game, any­way. Now that he had ac­tu­ally seen NFL play out, was it love at first sight for the for­mer NSW State of Ori­gin full­back?

“They were play­ing in snow,’’ he says. “I just thought, ‘I’d hate to be there’.’’

Yet in the days that fol­lowed the NFL bug grew.

When Kris­nan Inu, his friend and Eels team­mate, re­turned from vis­it­ing cousins in Utah with an NFL ball, they started spi­ralling it back and forth. Dream­ing.

“We said how if we came over here we’d be wide re­ceivers,’’ Hayne said.

“They get breaks af­ter plays. We didn’t re­ally like the en­durance side of rugby league so ... we liked that.’’

Now the jour­ney con­tin­ues. Hayne has just fin­ished an op­posed ses­sion in­volv­ing not only leg­endary Den­ver quar­ter­back Pey­ton Man­ning but also DeMar­cus Ware, the Bron­cos de­fen­sive end who Hayne idolised dur­ing his time with Dal­las.

“And through scrim­mage, we walked past each other,’’ Hayne says. “He ac­knowl­edged me, too.’’

Then on the next play, things got even bet­ter. Hayne knew who he was pro­tect­ing. THE god­fa­ther of Gold Coast rugby league is on a mis­sion to wake the sleep­ing dragon.

And we are not talk­ing St Ge­orge Illawarra.

Paul Broughton, co-founder of the Gold Coast Ti­tans, is launch­ing a pro­ject to un­earth an NRL star in China.

As Aus­tralia braces for a raid from Amer­ica’s NFL in the wake of for­mer Par­ra­matta star Jar­ryd Hayne’s pre-sea­son form at the San Fran­cisco 49ers, Broughton be­lieves our own tal­ent scouts can also head over­seas to find un­tapped po­ten­tial.

Broughton will next month head to the coun­try of 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple to head­hunt ath­letes to bring to the NRL.

He said he al­ready had NRL clubs ready to take on the Chi­nese ath­letes as pro­ject play­ers, pos­si­bly as soon as next year.

“Whether they are sprint­ers, or wrestlers, or rugby play­ers or vil­lage farm boys doesn’t mat­ter,” Broughton said.

“If we see some­thing spe­cial in them, that could be enough.

“It only takes one player to get the ball rolling and in a coun­try of 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple, any­thing is pos­si­ble.”

Un­der the plan, play­ers would spend up to two years train­ing in the pro­fes­sional en­vi­ron­ment of an NRL fran­chise.

They would ei­ther kick on or take their skills back to form part of a Chi­nese na­tional pro­gram.

Broughton has founded the China Aus­tralia Sports Ex­change (CASE) and will launch the pro­ject in Shang­hai next month.

A na­tion­wide search will then take place to hand-pick Chi­nese ath­letes who could suc­ceed in a Hayne-style code switch to league.

He hopes to bring a hand­ful of play­ers back to Aus­tralian clubs within six months.

The plan is not with­out prece­dent.

Dis­ney movie Mil­lion Dol­lar Arm is based on the story of Amer­i­can sports agent JB Bern­stein, who held a re­al­ity tele­vi­sion com­pe­ti­tion in In­dia to un­earth base­ball pitch­ers.

That ul­ti­mately led to two play­ers be­ing signed by the Pittsburgh Pi­rates in Ma­jor League Base­ball.

It is that sort of po­ten­tial that ex­cites Broughton, who coached Bal­main and New­town in the old NSWRL.

Grif­fith Univer­sity’s Gold Coast Con­fu­cius Club has also been in­volved in the pro­ject, trans­lat­ing the CASE vi­sion in to Man­darin.

Show­ing just how for­eign the con­cept is to the Chi­nese, there is no term for rugby league in Man­darin.

How­ever, Broughton hopes to cap­i­talise on the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of football codes in China.

 ??  ?? NIN­ERS LIVES: Jar­ryd Hayne joins tight end Gar­rett Celek (88)
dur­ing a San Fran­cisco 49ers train­ing ses­sion, and (be­low) in pre­sea­son ac­tion. Pic­tures: Getty
Im­ages DRAGON WATCH­ING: Gold Coast Ti­tans co-founder Paul Broughton is search­ing for...
NIN­ERS LIVES: Jar­ryd Hayne joins tight end Gar­rett Celek (88) dur­ing a San Fran­cisco 49ers train­ing ses­sion, and (be­low) in pre­sea­son ac­tion. Pic­tures: Getty Im­ages DRAGON WATCH­ING: Gold Coast Ti­tans co-founder Paul Broughton is search­ing for...

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