NRL legend El Masri approached by audacious AFL

Hazem El Masri

He is an NRL legend, and perhaps the greatest goal-kicker in the history of the NRL, but he may soon change codes – with the AFL making a cheeky bid to have former one-club player and Bulldog legend Hazem El Masri, as the AFL ambassador for Western Sydney.

The AFL already got one-up on the NRL earlier, with the departure of Israel Folau to the Greater Western Sydney side, and El Masri is considering a proposal by the AFL – a proposal that may hopefully see the Australian Rugby League Commission to act swiftly, as to keep Hazem involved in the NRL somehow.

El Masri, who has represented both NSW and Australia, said that whilst the proposal by the AFL was flattering, he would consider it if the ARLC failed to offer him a bigger role in the NRL.

“[Rugby league] is the area I’d like to be in, for sure,” El Masri said.

“But in saying that, I’ve been retired for three years now and I’ve got a young family to look after as well. I don’t want to put a sour taste in anybody’s mouth, so I don’t want to speak about that too much. Obviously I want to be around spreading a positive message, not just in Sydney but around Australia.”

“I know I can be effective in the community and hopefully things will work out, and I can be here to make a difference for many years. I’m not the sort of person to go out there and talk about myself, but I know there’s a lot that I can go out there and do.”

The man nicknamed “El Magic” was a former recipient of the Ken Stephens Medal, and recently received honorary doctorate of letters from the University of Western Sydney, in recognition of his services to the Arabic and Western Sydney communities.

El Masri, who currently holds the point-scoring record for most points scored in the NRL, said that the success of clubs and the communities, including his own in Canterbury, had bonded.

“When I was young playing soccer, everyone in the area only wanted to talk about the Bulldogs,” said the Lebanese-born Australian.

“That gave me the inspiration to give up soccer and take up the game that everyone in this part of Australia loves.”

“For me it’s not just about the Muslim community. We used to go down to Burwood Road the day before [a Bulldogs] grand final and it used to be closed – that’s how many people went down … Everyone would come down together – all the Italians, the Greeks, the Lebanese – and no one would look at anyone as being different, just as Bulldogs supporters. It’s a great feeling to see the area buzzing again.”

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