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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