Race lines up NRL's quick men
ADRIAN PROSZENKOMay 16, 2010
A sprint to determine rugby league's fastest man will be the centrepiece of a Sydney Olympic Park athletics meet celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the 2000 Olympics.
The Sun-Herald can reveal that the Sydney Olympic Park Authority has signed off on the event, tentatively called the Competitive Edge All Stars Athletic Challenge, to be held at the Olympic precinct on Wednesday, September 15.
World champion discus thrower Dani Samuels, national long jump record holder Fabrice Lapierre, Australian hurdler Hayley Butler and reigning Commonwealth Games 400m champion John Steffensen are all confirmed starters for what will be the final serious hitout before the Delhi Commonwealth Games.
But the highlight is likely to be a 100m dash for cash to determine rugby league's fastest man. Parramatta superstar Jarryd Hayne said that, club commitments permitting, he would love to be part of the historic event.
''I haven't been on the track since I was 16,'' Hayne told The Sun-Herald. ''So to have a great opportunity like this, I'll be more than willing to throw on the spikes.
''But as much as I'd love to run, hopefully the Eels are in the finals and I'll just have to watch.''
Hayne is no stranger to the track, having posted a personal best time of 13.1 seconds for the 100m hurdles while attending Westfield Sports High School. The flying fullback, who idolised sprinter Matt Shirvington and hurdler Kyle Vander-Kuyp while growing up, was clocked at 11.3 seconds over the flat distance as a 15-year-old. Melbourne superstar Billy Slater has expressed interest as well.
The last Eel involved in a match race took the spoils - winger Lee Oudenryn famously beat Martin ''Chariots'' Offiah at Parramatta Stadium during Great Britain's tour of Australia in 1992.
It's been the only event of its kind since Norths and Manly speedster Mike Cleary defeated Ken Irvine in a photo finish in front of 10,000 fans at the Wentworth Park Greyhound Complex in 1964. Cleary posted a time of 9.7 seconds on a damp grass track to pick up the £1000 purse.
It's understood that the spoils will be considerably greater this time around, with the victor assured of a five-figure pay packet. A naming rights sponsor is expected to be announced in coming months.
A potential starting line-up could be Hayne, Slater, the Morris twins, Michael Jennings (Penrith), Josh Dugan (Canberra), Jamie Soward (St George Illawarra) and Brett Stewart (Manly). The only sticking point would be that players involved in the finals series - four teams will remain in contention in mid-September - are unlikely to be released by their clubs.
''This is all about celebrating the Sydney Olympics and showcasing the world's best athletes in an entertaining format,'' said event organiser Hayden Knowles, who is also the Parramatta Eels trainer.
''It's not going to be a traditional athletics meet. It is about entertainment, about engaging the public whilst for some of our athletes it will be serious preparation towards Delhi.''
Asked about Hayne's participation, Knowles said: ''Jarryd is dead keen … but I'm very determined not to see him run. Hopefully he'll be busy preparing to play finals football.''