Kiwi league star Jason Taumalolo in secret NFL trial

Kiwis test star Jason Taumalolo has shocked the National Rugby League by flying to America immediately after the Four Nations final for secret trials with NFL clubs. Photo / Photosport.
Kiwis test star Jason Taumalolo has shocked the National Rugby League by flying to America immediately after the Four Nations final for secret trials with NFL clubs. Photo / Photosport.

Kiwis test star Jason Taumalolo has shocked the National Rugby League by flying to America immediately after the Four Nations final for secret trials with NFL clubs.

Taumalolo, who shared the Dally M Award with Australian star Cooper Cronk for the best player in this year's NRL, and New Zealand-born Kangaroos winger Valentine Holmes both flew out of England just hours after the Four Nations final won handsomely by Australia over the Kiwis earlier today.

The news has hit the NRL like a bombshell.

Taumalolo and Holmes boarded a flight from London's Heathrow Airport bound for their crack at NFL contracts.

The New Zealand Herald has previously reported Taumalolo's interest in playing American Football.

Now the blockbusting forward is taking the first step to his NFL dream by flying to America to undergo the same battery of tests that saw Jarryd Hayne signed by the San Francisco 49ers.

The Cowboys back-rower has an ally in Holmes, who will also meet with NFL scouts - just six weeks after helping Cronulla break their 49-year premiership drought.


Brisbane's Courier Mail reports there is no suggestion the pair will walk out on their NRL contracts to play NFL. But the fact two of the code's biggest stars are keen to test their wares by undergoing NFL trials will come as a concern to NRL hierarchy.

Rugby league cannot afford to lose either of the duo. Taumalolo is the most destructive forward in the code, while Holmes has rocketed into the national team on the back of his attacking brilliance at the Sharks.

Both are off-contract at the end of next season and have been delaying extension talks as they weigh up their futures in the code.

The Cowboys, who have made moves to sign Taumalolo to a long-term deal beyond 2017, will do everything in their power to keep him in Townsville.

One of Australia's top gridiron coaches and scouts, Paul Shepherd, has links to every NFL club and recently told The Courier-Mail that Taumalolo, 23, is at the perfect age to succeed in the US.

"I'm not surprised NFL clubs are interested in Taumalolo. I could get him a workout with every NFL club tomorrow," Shepherd said.

"I deal with NFL clubs regularly and their scouts always say to me, 'How do we get our hands on your Polynesian players?'

"Jason Taumalolo would be absolutely fantastic in the NFL.

"If he is prepared to fly over to the US, there would be lots of NFL coaches who would want him."

Taumalolo is four years younger than Hayne was when he attempted his code switch.

The conundrum for Taumalolo is timing. Taumalolo would have to sacrifice an entire NRL campaign and walk away from an $A800,000 contract to take a Hayne-style gamble, although he is five years younger than the Titans star.

"At his age, Jason has time to learn the nuances of the game," Shepherd said. "He is a massive unit, he would be a great tight-end or linebacker and in defensive lines he would smash blokes.

"Because of the timing in the seasons, NRL players have to take an enormous risk and make financial sacrifices.

"NFL is an explosion-based game and few players in the NRL have Taumalolo's explosiveness.

"It would be a huge test for Jason but he has the physical ability to make it. If he has a crack, I wish him all the best."

Asked during the recent NRL finals if he aimed to finish his career at the Cowboys, Taumalolo was noncommittal.

"It's something I haven't thought about too much but the question will come up sooner rather than later," he said.

"I will find out where my future lies over the next 12 months."

In January, Taumalolo lauded Hayne's NFL achievements and flagged his interest in a possible US defection.

"A few boys last off-season went and had trials (in the NFL) so it will be interesting to see what happens next off-season," he told Fox Sports.

"It (Hayne's NFL journey) proves anything is possible if you dream big. Jarryd wanted to play NFL and he went over and did it.

"The Cowboys are my main priority ... but I guess it's a long-term thing."

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