Harding setting the standard for Jarryd Hayne
GRIDIRON Australia chairman Darrin Mitchell believes former NRL star Jarryd Hayne could do worse than look at the example fellow Aussie convert Scott Harding is setting in college football in his quest to make it in the NFL.
Harding, who played 50 AFL games over five seasons with the Brisbane Lions and Port Adelaide, is attracting attention for his exploits at the University of Hawaii.
Harding is the brother-in-law of Karmichael Hunt, who is married to Harding's sister Emma.
Hunt and Harding are former school mates and both have proven their versatility, with Hunt excelling in the NRL and AFL before linking up with the Queensland Reds for the coming Super Rugby season.
Harding is also multi-skilled, earning the nickname "Mr Versatile" among his college football teammates.
Mitchell said while the 28-year-old had not focused on one position on the gridiron field, his all-round skills made him an interesting commodity.
"He catches the ball, plays receiver and he punts the ball. And no one in college football does that," Mitchell told APN.
"They're talking maybe he could play NFL next year. He's probably not the best kick returner, he's probably not the best punter, and he's probably not the best receiver. But all those skills combined raise his level to a point where some coaches might be interested in taking him on."
Hayne has all those skills as well but, according to Mitchell, his biggest challenge would be getting his head around the many intricacies in an entirely different football game.
"Do I think he (Hayne) can make it? It takes a special skill level to play this sport," Mitchell said.
"Jarryd can catch the ball, he can run the ball, and he can tackle.
"But he's got to learn a different game. His skills can transfer into that game if he wants to learn how to play it.
"If you're going to stand at the back and catch a ball and run it, you've got to know you've got your teammates in front of you, because one of them can spring a block which can help you get down field.
"In rugby league, you grab the ball and you're on your own.
"He has to learn the game, but who knows? He could be a great player."
Mitchell said Australia was still a long way behind countries like the USA, Canada, Mexico and Japan in gridiron, but he said progress was being made.
Australia will take part in next year's World Cup - it finished eighth in the last edition in 2011.