The 2015 NBA finals have put Australian athletes in the spotlight lately. The interest has been fueled by the emergence of Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Matthew Dellavedova, an Australian born and raised in Maryborough. Dellavedova has stepped in for the injured Kyrie Irving who was actually born in Australia as well. Opposing Dellavedova and Irving is the face of Australian basketball, Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut.
But the San Francisco 49ers have the "LeBron James of the Australia," and his arrival in Santa Clara has brought a new fan following from the Land Down Under.
I am talking of course about rugby league icon-turned-NFL running back hopeful Jarryd Hayne.
It should come as no surprise that the superstar intenational athlete nicknamed the "Hayne Plane" has created a stir of interest in the 49ers from fans in the South Pacific, nearly 8,000 miles away from Northern California.
But a look at data from 49ers.com and insights from Facebook help us quantify the precise influence one player has had on the emergence of 49ers followers in Australia.
Since Hayne joined the team in March, Australia has comprised the second-most visits to 49ers.com by a country behind only the United States. In the same time period last year, visits from Australia were sixth-most. The site has also experienced 300 percent more page views from Australia since the running back's arrival.
On Facebook, Australians only make up about one percent of current 49ers followers. That said, the total number of fans from Australia has doubled coinciding with the addition of Hayne. Most of those fans are highly engaged - liking, commenting and sharing 49ers posts on a weekly basis. One of the gaudiest numbers from Facebook: 25 times more Australians are talking about the 49ers this offseason than they were last year. In October, we used Twitter data to ask the question: Are the 49ers America’s team? Although it will be an extremely tough road for Hayne to make the final 53-man roster - an unprecedented feat for someone with little playing experience - at least for now, it seems, the 49ers are Australia's team.