Linked in rugby league history after becoming the first joint Dally M Medal winners in the recently completed NRL season, Toyota Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston admits he was stunned by Jarryd Hayne’s decision to leave the game to pursue an NFL career.

Hayne made the announcement this morning, ruling himself out of Australia’s upcoming Four Nations campaign and ending his time with the Parramatta Eels.

“’Wow’ is what I first thought,” JT said.

“You have to admire him for making a decision like this. It can’t have been easy when you’re at the top of your game in rugby league.

“I’ve enjoyed watching him in the NRL and I’m going to enjoy watching him try to make it in a completely different sport with a whole range of different skills.

“It’s obviously going to be a huge challenge for him but I’d say he’s ready for it.

“He’s a powerful athlete in the prime of his career so hopefully he can make it to the big time over there.”

Hayne said it had always been a dream of his to play in the NFL.

“At my age, this is my one and only chance at having a crack at playing there,” the two-time Dally M Medal winner said.

“For the past 24 months I’ve been thinking about having a crack in the NFL and the last 12 months I’ve been seriously considering it.

“The reason I didn’t make this decision last year was because of the part I played in getting Brad to the club and the way we finished the season. I felt I owed the club one more year and I gave it everything I could,” Hayne said.  

“I’m excited about the potential opportunities that lie ahead, and I’ve known the deadline has been looming for me to make this call, and I believe the right time is now,” he said.

“I’m passionate about the challenge that lies ahead for me not only as an athlete but more so as a person.

"It’s the hardest decision I have ever had to make in my life.”