SYDNEY — It’s 2 p.m., but Jarryd Hayne isn’t here.
Everyone else is. A mob of reporters sit in regal red chairs, notepads out, waiting. Half a dozen television cameras stand across from the blue projector screen that fills the room like an IMAX theater, ready to stream his announcement to thousands of rugby league fans across Australia.
Purple orbs line the rows of this ritzy auditorium, making it feel like the space-age set of a Silicon Valley startup.
This doesn’t look at all like the press conference of a likely practice squad player. Because that’s all Jarryd Hayne is right now. And yet the 27-year-old represents so much more.
Read his resume. The two-time Player of the Year quit Australia’s National Rugby League in October to pursue an NFL career. Think Michael Jordan trading hoops for a baseball cap. Except this 6’2″, 226-pound all-star is donning pads and heading west, carrying with him a continent’s dreams and insecurities.
Hence the glitzy presser, a dream two years in the making. Five months ago, Hayne shocked Aussies by leaving rugby league. By December, he was working out for NFL teams in San Diego. And now, on March 3, he’s ready to make the big announcement as to who he will play for.
Nobody knows where Hayne will choose to sign.
Just the day before, The Daily Telegraph announced Hayne would stick with the Detroit Lions, who he would have signed with months ago if not for an issue with his visa. This morning, The Sydney Morning Herald reported the opposite; Hayne would announce he was heading to San Francisco instead. Speculation has run rampant between Sydney’s two biggest papers, and today Hayne will prove one right.
That is, if he shows up.
The pressure is becoming too much to take. A cameraman finally breaks. “Does someone know what’s going on?” A woman speaks into a walkie-talkie. Soon, she says, she’ll let us know. Hayne’s mum, sister and auntie wait too. They know as much as anyone else. Which is to say they know nothing.
Suddenly, music starts to play. A door opens on stage, and in walks Hayne.
“In 2015,” he says, pulling out a red-and-gold cap, “I’m going to be a San Francisco 49er.”