Seven rugby league players who’ve switched sports: WWE, darts, NFL..

Aaron Bower

The latest in a long line of former rugby league players to try their hand at another sport has continued, with former Featherstone Rovers and NRL centre Joey Leilua resuming his boxing career this week. 

Leilua was, unfortunately, knocked out by former NRL man Curtis Scott in the second round. However, some of his former league compatriots have had far better success in other fields – ranging from the boxing ring to the NFL – and even the world of professional wrestling. Here’s a look at the best.

Joey Leilua

We start with the man of the moment: former Featherstone Rovers centre Leilua, who resumed his boxing career earlier this week in pretty disappointing circumstances.

It wasn’t Leilua’s first foray into the ring, though. Before he even arrived at Featherstone, he’d had a fight against former NRL player Chris Heighington. However, his first official fight came this week with that defeat to Scott, being knocked out in the second round.

Joey Leilua Featherstone Rovers Alamy
Joey Leilua in action for Featherstone Rovers in 2022 – Alamy


Anthony Mundine

Arguably the most successful rugby league player to switch into boxing, Mundine had a career inside the ring spanning over 20 years, winning dozens of fights along the way.

The former Brisbane and St George man was a huge success, too. He held the WBA’s super-middleweight title on two separate occasions and also won the IBO middleweight title, becoming part of an exclusive club of fighters to win world titles at two different weights. He had 59 fights and won 48, the last of which was a defeat to Michael Zerafa in 2021.

Daniel Vidot

One of two former Salford Red Devils players now plying his trade as a professional wrestler in the WWE, one-time Salford winger Vidot now goes by the name of Xyon Quinn. His most recent appearance on TV was earlier this month – but it wasn’t a pleasant experience, as he lost out pretty quickly on SmackDown to rising star Bron Breakker.

Vidot had a promising career in league before switching sports, making well over 100 NRL appearances and even appearing on ten times for Samoa. He made the move to Super League in 2016 with the Red Devils, and scored six tries in ten appearances for the club.

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Luke Menzies

Another ex-Red Devils player who has made the transition to WWE, Menzies is a fairly reuglar presence on television in the world of professional wrestling under the name Ridge Holland.

As a rugby league player, Menzies played for the likes of Hull KR, Batley and Salford before curtailing his career in 2016 to train for a life inside the ring. He was signed to WWE in May 2018 and was regularly on television as part of a tag team called The Brawling Brutes with fellow Englishman Pete Dunne. He is still on WWE television to this day.

Gerwyn Price

One of the biggest stars in the world of darts, Gerwyn Price’s roots were in rugby union: but he did have a short stint in league in 2014. He played for then-League 1 side South Wales Scorpions for a handful of games, and was even capped by the Welsh Dragonhearts.

He also played union semi-professionally for the likes of Neath and Glasgow before abandoning his rugby career in 2015 to try his hand at darts. It’s safe to say he made the right decision; Price has become one of the most successful players in the sport’s history, winning countless major titles – the most notable the 2021 World Darts Championship.

Jarryd Hayne

One of the most talented players of his generation, Hayne crafted a successful career in the NRL before announcing in 2014 that he was walking away from rugby league to try his hand in the NFL.

He was eventually signed by the San Francisco 49ers in March of 2015 to a three-year contract, and he made his debut in the NFL in the first week of the 2015-16 season. He only made a handful of appearances before ultimately being cut by the 49ers and eventually returning to league with Gold Coast and Parramatta. However, following the culmination of his career in sport, Hayne was convicted of rape in May 2023 and sentenced to almost five years in prison.

Valentine Holmes

Following in the footsteps of Hayne, NRL superstar Holmes stunned the world in 2019 when he announced he was about to chance his arm in the NFL, effectively bringing his rugby league career to an end.

He was ultimately picked up by the New York Jets and featured prominently in the 2019 pre-season. However, he failed to make their official squad for the NFL campaign and waas released in the final round of roster cuts. He remained in their practice squad but several months later, was cut once and for all and released by the Jets. He returned to the NRL in time for the 2020 season, signing for North Queensland Cowboys: where he remains to this day.

Jordan Mailata

Undisputedly the biggest – in every sense of the word – and most successful convert to switch from rugby league to the NFL, Mailata was a junior at South Sydney Rabbitohs but eventually declined a contract after his agency advised him to try a sport that would be better suited to his size. He chose the NFL, being drafted to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018.

He has become one of the best players in his position in American Football and has even featured in the sport’s biggest game, the SuperBowl. He played in the 2022 title decider for the Eagles, as they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. To date, he has made over 60 starts for the Eagles – undoubtedly cementing him as the best rugby league convert in the NFL.

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