Hardcore, bandwaggoners turn out for Super Bowl in Hayne's hometown

Mon Feb 8, 2016 2:08am EST
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By Nick Mulvenney

CAMPBELLTOWN, Australia (Reuters) - The numbers were modest and the hour a lot less sociable than in California but Australian NFL fans had themselves a proper Super Bowl party in the hometown of San Francisco 49ers punt returner Jarryd Hayne on Monday.

Australia has traditionally had one of the highest viewing figures pro rata for the Super Bowl outside the United States with some 200,000 out of a population of 23 million tuning in for the 2014 showpiece.

The NFL received huge exposure Down Under last year when Hayne made the audacious decision to cut short his career as one of the biggest stars in the country's National Rugby League (NRL) and head stateside to play for the 49ers.

And if the anecdotal evidence of Monday at the Western Suburbs Leagues Club in Leumeah is anything to go by, it has also had an impact on the NFL's reach even when he is not playing.

"I've been a fan for about two years but I have noticed a big increase in interest mostly because of Jarryd Hayne," said Izac Talanoa who, like Hayne, has his roots in the large local Pacific Islander community.

"It's been a massive influence because he only started out here and now he's over in the big leagues."

Some were already waiting outside for the club to open at 9.30 a.m. so they could grab a seat in front of the big screen and some 200 had assembled by kickoff an hour later, a four-fold increase on last year's turnout according to staff.

Pizza, foot-long hot dogs, corndogs, peanuts and buckets of American beers at knockdown prices all helped bridge the 7,000 miles between a sunny Monday morning in southwest Sydney and Super Bowl Sunday in Santa Clara.   Continued...

Australian NFL fans watch the telecast of the NFL Super Bowl on a large screen at the Western Suburbs Leagues Club in Leumeah, located west of Sydney, Australia, February 8, 2016.  REUTERS/David Gray