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Jarryd Hayne provides another code shock
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Filled in: NRL News | 15/10/2014 at 6:30pm

Heard the one about Jeff Fenech playing rugby league for Parramatta?

Or the Australian who has represented the United States at the Rugby World Cup – and the New York Jets in the NFL?

And how about Israel Folau in the AFL?

Okay, perhaps it’s best not to dwell on that last one.

Years ago they would have sounded like the makings of a good joke to cynics.

Indeed some of Folau’s AFL critics are still giggling, albeit after the code hopper laughed all the way to the bank.

But it seems ever since Dally Messenger took a chance in 1908, nothing should surprise punters when it comes to radical sporting shifts.

Not even NRL superstar Jarryd Hayne’s attempt to play in the NFL.

It was another reminder that elite sportspeople would still rather ask “why not?” rather than “what if?”.

Quite possibly after asking “how much?”

But some have been left wondering another question when the dust settled on their left field quest: “what was I thinking?”

Perhaps the most famous is Michael Jordan who as a baseballer sure made a good basketballer in the mid-1990s.

Golf has also made a habit of making some of sport’s greats look almost mortal – and that’s just those competing on the PGA tour.

Eight-time grand slam winner Ivan Lendl’s career never took off while Formula One ace Nigel Mansell also did not reach great heights despite receiving a 1988 Australian Open wildcard thanks to old mate Greg Norman.

“I have had first, second and third degree burns on the buttocks from petrol spillage in my first Grand Prix but it was still a lot easier than this,” said Mansell after missing the cut before having an unsuccessful crack at the European Seniors Tour.

But Australian Davis Cup tennis player Scott Draper had no complaints after his switch following his 2005 Australian Open mixed doubles success with Sam Stosur, later taking out the 2007 NSW PGA championship.

Three-time world boxing champion Fenech had been used to punching above his weight but the `Marrickville Mauler’ came off second best in a short-lived stint in the late 1980s with Parramatta when the budding hooker failed to graduate from reserve grade.

More headlines were caused by someone who followed a reverse career path – Anthony Mundine.

He has been described by TV personality Steve Bunce as “arguably the greatest crossover athlete in boxing history”.

Some have been less flattering in their descriptions of Mundine but no-one can take away the three boxing world titles he claimed after sensationally walking away from the NRL in mid-2000.

Sonny Bill Williams abandoned the Bulldogs mid-contract to win the 2011 World Cup with New Zealand before returning to claim a second NRL title with Sydney Roosters.

Somehow he also found time to claim New Zealand’s heavyweight boxing title.

Ex-Bronco Karmichael Hunt left the NRL for AFL newcomers Gold Coast, even managing a brief European rugby stint before hooking up with the Suns.

He then switched to the 15-man game again and will play with the Queensland Reds next season.

Australian women have also taken a chance.

Ellyse Perry juggles national honours in soccer and cricket.

And former two-time 400m world champion hurdler Jana Pittman became the first Australian woman to contest the summer and winter Olympics when she contested bobsleigh at Sochi this year.

But the gold medal must go to Aussie Hayden Smith.

The ex-Sydney King earned a US basketball scholarship in Colorado, only to be snapped up by rugby scouts and represent the US at the 2011 World Cup.

Remarkably the New York Jets then recruited him but he returned to rugby after playing five NFL games last year.

It’s enough to make you wonder what will be next – a Canadian rugby international taking up AFL?

Oh right, Mike Pyke.

But even in this congested sport-swapping landscape Hayne has done enough to catch a nation’s attention by trying to get a deal in the NFL – a path once paved by ex-AFL pioneers such as Darren Bennett, Ben Graham and Sav Rocca.

It seems we were warned.

Willie Mason suggested last year the NRL would become a future NFL breeding ground.

He made what seemed a laughable call after revealing he once knocked back a $550,000 one-season offer to play NFL with the New York Jets because he couldn’t secure a Bulldogs release.

Whether Hayne gets the last laugh in this instance, remains to be seen.

SPORT SWAPPERS:

Notable athletes who have attempted sport career changes

* Jarryd Hayne – rugby league to NFL

* Michael Jordan – basketball to baseball

* Scott Draper – tennis to golf

* Ivan Lendl – tennis to golf

* Nigel Mansell – Formula One to golf

* Colin Scotts – rugby union to NFL

* Ben Graham – AFL to NFL

* Darren Bennett – AFL to NFL

* Sav Rocca – AFL to NFL

* Nova Peris – hockey to athletics

* Jeff Fenech – boxing to rugby league

* Darren Clark – athletics to rugby league

* Anthony Mundine – rugby league to boxing

* Sonny Bill Williams – rugby league to rugby union and boxing and back again

* Jana Pittman – athletics to bobsleigh

* Melissa Hauschildt – athletics to ironman triathlon

* Ellyse Perry – cricket to soccer and vice versa.

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