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The ‘Hayne Plane’ Is Leaving San Francisco

The former rugby league star announced his retirement from the NFL. Destination: Rio de Janeiro

by Aanu Adeoye
16 May 2016, 12:43am

In a shock announcement this morning, former rugby league superstar Jarryd Hayne, who made the high-profile move to the San Francisco 49ers last year, "retired" from the NFL – with plans to suit up for the Fiji rugby sevens side at the upcoming Rio Olympics.

In a statement released on the 49ers website, the 28-year-old Sydney-sider said that the Fijian Rugby Sevens team reached out to him, and convinced him to play for them at the Rio Olympics.

"I simply could not pass that chance up," Hayne, who is eligible to play for the island nation thanks to his Fijian-born father Manoa Thompson, said.

"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."

Hayne's NFL 'retirement' ends one of the strangest, most over-publicized experiments in Australian sporting history.

Highlights from Hayne's first game for the 49ers

The 28-year-old signed a three-year free agent deal with the 49ers in March last year, after declining a five-year A$6.5 million contract with the Parramatta Eels that would have made him the highest paid NRL player of all-time.

The decision was hugely controversial given Hayne's NRL stardom and lack of gridiron background – with his every move at training camps, and pre-season friendlies, covered ad nauseum in Australasian sports media.

Once the 2015-2016 season began, Hayne notched up 17 carries for a total of 52 yards, as well as six receptions for 27 yards. He also recorded eight punt returns for 76 yards.

Yet despite the Australian's endeavour and application, it was clear that Hayne was off the pace in a skills and instinct point-of-view. Injured running back Carlos Hyde is due to return for the 49ers this year, which was expected to limit the former Eels winger's playing time for the upcoming season.

That said, Hayne's announcement to leave the 49ers comes as a shock.

"The past 12 months with the San Francisco 49ers have been absolutely incredible," Hayne said, of his brief NFL career.

"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."

Trent Baalke, the 49ers general manager, commended the Australian's contribution to the NFL side during his brief stay in San Francisco.

"Jarryd is a tremendous example of what can happen when you commit to a goal and do everything in your power to make it a reality," Baalke said.

"He earned the right to wear a 49ers uniform and compete alongside the best in the game."

Hayne in a recent press conference in San Francisco

Though his possible inclusion in the Fijian side immediately improves their medal chances, Hayne's presence on the rugby field in Rio might not be a done deal yet.

On Twitter, former ASADA boss Richard Ings said that Hayne needed to be in the World Rugby registered drug-testing pool for six months to be available for the Olympics.

The fact that the NFL is "PED badlands," Ings claimed, will work against him.e

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