Parramatta star Jarryd Hayne rocked the rugby league community on Wednesday when he announced his immediate departure from the NRL to pursue a career to play in the NFL. Here's what he had to say at his press conference.
Hayne revealed he had been thinking about an overseas switch for more than two years – and he's not wrong. The NSW Origin star last year rejected a four-year contract extension with the club and instead signed on for another two years, leaving open the possibility of a move to the States.
"In the last 12 months, I've been seriously considering it. The reason why I didn't make the decision last year was the part I played in getting Brad to the club, and the way we finished the season. I felt I owed the club one more year," he said.
"I'm excited about the potential opportunities that lie ahead. I believe right now that the time is right. The hardest thing about leaving the club is the stability for the first time in a long time. I'm grateful for Sharpy, Scott, and Brad, enabling me to follow my heart and, I guess, follow my dreams.
"I'm passionate about the challenge that lies ahead as an athlete but moreso as a person. This is the hardest decision that I've ever had to make in my life. I'm leaving my team-mates, my friends, and most importantly, my family. But for me to grow as an athlete and as a person, I feel this is the right step to take."
Twitter reacts to Hayne's decision
The 26-year-old has won two Dally M medals, played in 12 Tests for Australia and 20 games for NSW. He won his first State of Origin series this year. And while he hasn't won a premiership – he lost a decider against Melbourne in 2009 – Hayne said rugby league didn't challenge him anymore.
"I feel like I've done everything in the game. What more is there to achieve other than a premiership? There's goals, but you gotta enjoy the journey moreso. I feel that the journey of going over there and having a crack at the NFL is far greater than anything here," he said.
THE FOUR NATIONS
It was only recently that Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens had spoken with Hayne about his plans for this month's Four Nations. But the World Cup winner felt now was the right time to walk away.
"I think I'm done. At this point in time, I'm done. I think for myself and for the club, it's appropriate now to move on and to go forward in the next chapter of my life and give myself every chance and opportunity to take that," he said.
"My heart will always be there. I love the game. But I guess the challenge of going to America and taking that next step, it would've got in the way."
Off contract at the end of next season, Hayne and his management had already held initial discussions on a contract extension that would've made him the highest paid player in the NRL. Instead, he will head over to States unemployed and scared.
"100 per cent [it's scary]. It's not going to be easy. I think that's what people need to understand. This isn't going to be an easy transition. I'm aware of that. That's why it's taken so long to decide," he said.
"People need to realise that I [was] probably about to become the highest paid player in the NRL, the highest paid player of rugby league. But I'm a kid from Minto. My whole dream of a professional athlete was to... buy my mum a house. I did that. And I think everything else has been a bonus."
Hayne was brought to tears when he spoke about the moment he told his mother, Jodie, about his decision to move.
"I told her to sit down, and I spoke to her, I said mum, 'Just sit down for a second'. She said she was sitting down. I said 'I've got something to tell you mum'," he said.
"And when I told her, she was excited. She knows what I'm like. She knows I like challenges. She knows I don't like anything easy. She knows I'm always testing myself. I'm always from one thing to the next. To just challenge myself, to test myself.
"And this is what it is. Like I said, I had one goal in life. Growing up in a housing commission, not having the easiest transition... to buy my mum a house, I did that. I don't know what I'm getting emotional for. I think I'm excited more than anything, you know."
Hayne sought the advice of former team-mate Krisnan Inu on Tuesday, a long-time friend who he had grown up with when playing junior footy for the Campbelltown Two Blues and attending Westfield Sports High.
"Speaking to Inu today, we spoke about how we were two kids from Minto that had a dream. We both had a dream to play in the NRL together, and then we've done that. Everything else has been a bonus," he said.
"We went from catching trains together, eating pizzas together, that was our diet before a game. We had dreams together. And [now] he's in France fulfilling his purpose and his dream. I'm about to take my step and go to America.
"Just speaking to him and realising how far we've come, it's extremely special. To have someone like that, who's a brother to me, for him to say, 'Chase your dreams, follow your heart', that's what I'm doing. And I think that's hard, the way I'm doing it.
"I know some people are going to be upset and that's tough. But I never want to limit myself to doing things for other people or holding myself back because of someone else. I want to put myself out there, give myself ever opportunity to climb a mountain that I'm at the bottom of. I'm going to go over there, pretty much as a rookie, as someone who has to start from the bottom. And that excites me.”
The NFL is less than two months into its 2014-15 season, with the 49th Super Bowl to be contested on February 1, 2015. Hayne is aiming to make a roster by the start of the next season. If he doesn't, he'll more than likely be back for the NRL kickoff in 2016.
"I think 12 months. This time next year it'll be mid-season and I'll know whether I've made a roster or not. I'll give myself every opportunity to do that and that's part of the reason why the decision to leave now was made. I'm preparing for 12 months time, and it starts now.”
THE NEXT STEP
Hayne insists no deal has been done, doors are yet to be opened, over in the NFL. He said he would travel to LA to train, but other than that, his immediate future remains up in the air.
"I guess with my manager and people he speaks to, he's trying to make a train-on squad [for me]. I think the rosters are done for this year, they're six games into their season," he said.
"I think ultimately it's a 12-month plan, going over there now and trying to make a train-on team where they basically just train, kinda like their second-tier players. That's the immediate plan, whether or not that'll happen, I'm not too sure. But overall it's the next season and for me to do that, I need to start preparing for that around January, February for the 2015 season."