Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Jarryd Hayne is not the answer to Australian rugby's problems

Jarryd Hayne. Photo / Getty Images.
Jarryd Hayne. Photo / Getty Images.

With all due respect to Jarryd Hayne, he's not the answer to Australian rugby's problems.

He's a super athlete, a giant publicity machine and, if he ends up coming across to give rugby a go, he'd no doubt be quite good.

But the old proverb about giving a man a fish against teaching him to fish comes to mind.

Their finances already stretched, all their Super Rugby teams out of the competition and players leaving in their droves for offshore contracts, the Australian Rugby Union will be tempted by a miracle option.

And they can argue that Hayne is that miracle. He has a huge following from his days in the NRL and NFL. If he's lured to rugby, then it's a big win for the code. It would make a nice change for Australian rugby to have a good story to tell.

But Hayne isn't really the miracle option. Signing him wouldn't deal with the real issues that are behind the sport's current demise in Australia.

He can't fix their endemic lack of skill execution and game understanding.

Besides, if Hayne signed with the Waratahs, it would end up most likely frustrating Australian rugby followers in the end because he won't be eligible for the Wallabies because he's already played sevens for Fiji.

His ability to inspire and generate interest would only go so far because, without being able to see him in a Wallabies jumper, the whole business would feel a little hollow and gimmicky.

Then there is the question of whether he can even find his feet in rugby. Failed attempts to switch codes far outnumber successful conversions. That's illustrated by the number of good players - Sam Burgess, Benji Marshall, Wendell Sailor and Iestyn Harris to name a few - who couldn't crack rugby.

On the basis that Hayne managed to make the NFL, he deserves to be considered as an athlete with the potential to get to grips with rugby. In terms of athleticism, skill-sets and determination, he sits comfortably alongside the few league players who successfully converted - Sonny Bill Williams, Brad Thorn, Jason Robinson and Israel Folau.

But while all of these players made it, they didn't - possibly with the exception of Folau - make it quickly.

All of them had to be patient. Success didn't come instantly, certainly not for Thorn and Williams and both had to endure a bit of humiliation along the way on account of their lack of experience and specific skills.

This whole business of the ARU talking to Hayne just feels like yet another example of the former missing the point. There is no miracle option out there for them.

Rather than chase one player in the hope he can transform the landscape, why not invest in better coaching? Look what Michael Cheika was able to do with firstly the Waratahs and then the Wallabies.

If the ARU can find a few more like Cheika, they will start to see the generally-poor skill execution that has blighted their Super Rugby teams improve. They will see better decision-making and structure from the Australian teams and presumably, too, a higher level of conditioning.

Fix these and fix Australian rugby.

These are the issues affecting Australian teams and, rather than try to buy one Jarryd Hayne, they should be looking to develop and create hundreds of their own.

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