Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne announced his retirement from professional football today. He released the following statement.
“I’d like to thank Jed and the entire York family for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of playing in the National Football League. I also want to thank Trent and his staff, as well as Jim Tomsula, Tom Rathman and the other coaches who invested in me to make this dream a reality. I’d also like to thank Coach Kelly for the opportunity to come back this year. The support and understanding from the 49ers organization was unbelievable when I let them know about my decision to pursue another dream. The past 12 months with the San Francisco 49ers have been absolutely incredible. I could not have predicted how far I have come as an NFL player. To not only be able to play in a game but also say that I started a game in the NFL is something that I will remember for a lifetime.
“I am retiring from the NFL because the Fiji Rugby Sevens team reached out to me about the opportunity to join the team for the upcoming Olympics, and I simply could not pass that chance up. The Olympics has been something I have admired since I was a little boy, and it is an opportunity I feel very similar to me joining the NFL.
“The 49ers organization has been incredibly supportive throughout my journey and I cannot thank them and the support staff enough. I am especially grateful to the strength and conditioning coaches, trainers and medical staff, equipment guys, public relations crew, chefs, logistics, and merchandise staff for their countless hours helping me in many different ways, so I could focus on football. Thank you to the fans from down under, as well as those around the world, who stood behind me and supported me along this amazing journey. I also want to thank the boys, especially my running back brothers, for their help and support in my transition to the NFL. I wish the team nothing but the best for the upcoming season.
“Last but not least, I would like to thank the 49ers Faithful for your unwavering support. From day one you have always been in my corner and I can’t thank you enough for the love you’ve shown for the kid from down under. Signing off, your mate, number 38.”
After giving fans some hope to cling to with some dynamic runs and returns during the preseason, Hayne made the 53-man roster as a punt returner and third-string running back. However, he couldn’t stop fumbling, and he was buried on the inactive list for multiple weeks. It seemed pretty clear that the fans — especially the new Australian contingent — thought more of Hayne than his coaches did. Further proof: he was waived in the middle of the season and the rest of the NFL said “no thanks.”
Hayne was seen more as a marketing tool than a viable player by those in the know, and that could be part of the reason why he made the decision to retire. Or, perhaps he read the room after meeting with Chip Kelly. However, Hayne’s decision to leave the NFL to pursue his Olympics dream kind of meshes with his personality — after all, he could have made more money in his home country as the No. 1 star in a sport he already knew how to play, and instead he traveled across the globe to make less while learning the intricacies of a brand new game.
As far as the 49ers are concerned, this was a sideshow designed to sell jerseys and promote the team in a new market. They were successful in both endeavors, as groups of Australian fans walking the streets of downtown San Francisco were a common sight before home games throughout the first month of the season. Hayne’s jersey was the No. 43 seller among all NFL players a year ago.
One positive is that the 49ers are willing to think unconventionally. We’ve seen this now with Hayne and Lawrence Okoye, which makes one wonder when they’ll sign a Japanese sumo wrestler to play nose tackle, or some roided-up Russian javelin specialist to compete with Blaine Gabbert after they release Colin Kaepernick next March. Oh well, at least no one got hurt during their down under experiment — Hayne included — and if nothing else he provided a ready-made storyline during one of the most boring seasons in the history of the franchise.