Former South Sydney Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire has revealed why the club had ‘no choice’ but to release NFL superstar Jordan Mailata at the end of the 2017 season.
Mailata, 25, will play in the Super Bowl on February 13 for the Philadelphia Eagles against the Kansas City Chiefs in what has been an extraordinary sporting journey.
The Bankstown Bulls rugby league junior – who weighs 166kg – first was on the books of the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2015 before he lobbed at Redfern two years later.
His imposing size made the offensive tackler for the Eagles impossible to miss – but the frenetic pace of rugby league left club officials – including Maguire – doubting he would be eventually a force in the NRL.
Speaking on the Ben Fordham show, Maguire recalled his early dealings with Mailata, who was drafted into the NFL back in 2018 despite never playing the sport before arriving on American soil.
‘I used to come into the (club) gym at 6am, and Jordan was always there, he worked incredibly hard, doing weights,’ the now senior consultant with the Canberra Raiders said.
‘He literally filled a corridor he was that big…in pre-season (back in 2017) he arrived at 166kg.
‘We felt he was too big for rugby league, we told him if he could get his weight down to around 130kg, he could be like (Melbourne Storm enforcer) Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
Ex-South Sydney Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire has revealed why the club had ‘no choice’ but to release NFL superstar Jordan Mailata at the end of the 2017 season
Mailata, 25, will play in the Super Bowl on February 13 for the Philadelphia Eagles in what has been an extraordinary sporting journey
‘Unfortunately he couldn’t do it, so we recommended to his agent he give another sport a go (like NFL), which was a bit more stop-start.’
Mailata did play for the Rabbitohs’ under-20s NYC squad in 2017, scoring eight tries in 12 appearances.
Next was an all or nothing move to the US the following year, where Philadelphia’s current offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland was instantly impressed.
While acknowledging it would take some time for Mailata to learn the finer points of blocking and American football in general, experts were impressed at his tremendous physique and sub-20 per cent body fat percentage.
His excellent speed over 40 metres and agility for his size also worked in his favour.
After standing out at the NFL draft combine, Mailata was optimistic a team could take a chance on him as a project player – and the Eagles did just that.
He finally made his NFL debut on September 13, 2020 against Washington, after rookie Jack Driscoll went down.
Mailta then made his starting debut in week four – and never looked back.
From week 11 until his season ended with one match remaining thanks to concussion, Mailata was in the league’s top 15 offensive tackles.
Mailata couldn’t contain his emotions after he was a key contributor to Philadelphia winning through to the Super Bowl
It’s been a stunning rise through the ranks for Mailata, who is now just the second Australian ever named to play in a Super Bowl
The 166kg, two-metre-tall former NRL reject soaked in the moment with his fiancee Niki Ikahihifo-Bender after the Eagles crushed San Francisco
The former South Sydney Rabbitoh took a huge risk when he left to chase his dream in the States – and it has paid off to the tune of as much as $88million
Given his spot on the left is probably the most important position on the gridiron outside of the quarterback, it is a phenomenal accomplishment – and the accolades have kept coming ever since.
Mailata was signed to a four-year contract worth up to $88 million last September in what would probably have been his proudest moment in the sport – until the final whistle sounded on Monday and made Philadelphia’s Super Bowl appearance official.
He will be just the second Australian named to play in the NFL’s showpiece game, after punter Ben Graham became the first in 2009.
And back where it all started with the Bankstown Bulls, his former coach Richard Kairouz is still beaming with pride.
‘Jordan has come a long way, back in the day, he was quite cumbersome and clumsy,’ he said.
‘As a junior coach, you hope one day your players make it in the NRL… and a couple have.
‘But to make the Super Bowl, the grandest event on the planet, probably behind the World Cup, is unbelievable.
‘We will definitely be watching. Probably get the whole crew together, his whole Bankstown Bulls crew together. And we will watch it all together.’
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