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The flying Saab comes to a crashing stop in American showcase

Andrew Mathieson -

It was no coincidence that Jason Saab’s first run of the ball in the NRL’s venture to Las Vegas was likened in the stands to a classic sideline run of an NFL wide receiver.

The fastest man in the game on rugby league’s tightest field – after the dimensions of Allegiant Stadium were converted from the NFL Super Bowl for the NRL showcase a couple of weeks later – was away through two defenders the second he took the ball.

The Manly flyer ran 60 metres from a turnover and looked in the clear until the final few metres.

Both Saab – and the fans – did not count on brave South Sydney halfback Lachlan Ilias cutting the run down when the proud Anaiwan man appeared try-bound.

The winger had aimed to be the first player to score on US soil in the first game of the double header to give the American portion of the 40,746 in attendance a memory to remember.

“League is the greatest game of all, but who would not entertain an opportunity in the NFL … who knows what (this game) could eventuate,” Saab said days before the game.

But the ankle tap over the line came out of nowhere and Saab’s marketing worth for a potential American football conversion of a different kind seemed to plummet.

The shock simmers down a little at the realisation that the width of the Vegas field is five metres less it would be at Sydney’s Olympic stadium or Brookvale.

Then perhaps Ilias does not lay a hand on Saab.

After a burly Richard Kennar – of all players – opened the scoring for Souths, in time Saab would make it up to the American viewing public and took a first-half intercept pass just ahead of half-time with that same turn of speed to run 60 metres to the line.

There was even a post-try celebration that wouldn’t look to unfamiliar in the NFL too.

But there was a cost behind the blistering runs: Saab suffered a hamstring injury.

For all the hype that focused on a suggestion from the promoter of quarterback great Tom Brady’s recent Australian speaking tour that another Aboriginal talent one day reaching great heights in the NFL.

Reece Walsh was tipped to have the ability of making $US25-30 million should the star fullback convert football codes anytime soon.

Walsh proved event host JT Foxx’s point after catching a standard Brady thunderbolt in the middle of stunned seated onlookers.

Despite being told he had the “looks and skills” to succeed in the NFL, Walsh does not have any real inclination to leave his long-term contract into the unknown.

The Murri man said the only reason he could be tempted is "because there is quite a bit more money " in American football.

Saab, however, is a clearly more ambitious like a Valentine Holmes or a Jarryd Hayne were before him.

Not quite ready to rip up his current deal for Manly, but an NFL offer would seriously be considered.

“It’s exciting to think about who might be watching (from NFL),” Saab told NewsCorp.

“If the opportunity comes knocking, I’d give it serious thought.”

 

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