Saturday 17 March 2018 / 09:32 PM


It’s great to have him back

Jarryd Hayne is a modern NRL great, one of the most gifted and entertaining athletes the game has ever seen. His highlight-reel moments are up there with any player – few players have ever given me as much joy to watch, and I’m sure it’s a sentiment most supporters share. It seems a fait accompli he will return to the top-level form that delivered Dally M Medals in 2009 and ’14. Having Hayne back in the NRL can only be good for the game and the (non-Eels) fans.

Hayne’s word is not his bond

Jarryd Hayne repeatedly said publicly he would only ever return to the NRL in a Parramatta jersey. He’s acting as if his hands were tied, that he had no option but to join a rival club immediately, and that rejoining the Eels was an impossibility. Hayne is attempting to explain his way out of blatantly reneging on a promise he made to the club’s fans, who have every right to be dirty about his defection. It’s amazing how many people are buying it.

The Eels let Hayne chase his dreams

Ah yes, Jarryd Hayne’s much talked-about, ever-expanding dreams. Parramatta released Hayne from the final year of his contract to pursue a career in the NFL, under the proviso that if he returned to rugby league, it would be with the Eels. Plenty has changed at the club since then, but there’s plenty of constants as well, particularly in the coaching and playing ranks. You’re either loyal or you’re not. Hayne wants to have his cake and eat it.

Why didn’t he wait?

Few fans would have realised that Hayne playing in the 2016 NRL premiership – for the Eels, Titans or anyone else – was even possible. Yet Hayne has portrayed a need to play immediately as being the most important factor behind his decision. If he was picked in Fiji’s Rugby Sevens squad for the Olympics, he’d be in Rio right now – and then would be unemployed again in a couple of weeks. If Parramatta had been able to fast-track a contract, as Hayne claims he so desperately wanted, he would only have five games left to play this year.

Why not just wait until 2017 to pull on the boots again? Hayne waited a grand total of 22 days after his Olympic dream was officially quashed before inking a deal with the Titans. Even the Titans admitted they were surprised at how quickly it all was settled. It’s a nice little coincidence that the club happens to be headed for the finals and is looming as a premiership dark horse.

We thought it wasn’t about the money…

After saying in yesterday’s press conference that Hayne was waiting for Parramatta to table an offer that never came, the Eels released a statement saying they did indeed make Hayne an offer (which they managed to put together despite the current upheaval at the club) – it just wasn’t in the vicinity of other offers. The Titans’ offer makes him the highest-paid player in the game. I’m not begrudging him taking the cash, but Hayne can’t at the same time say the decision wasn’t factored around money.

Parramatta’s boardroom bungling is not news

Hayne lamented the current board situation at Parramatta, claiming it made his return to the club untenable. The Eels have been a basketcase for years – certainly since well before he left for the NFL. After the board’s sacking, the club’s administration is in a state of flux, and getting the right people in the joint (finally) can’t be rushed. Hayne’s using the Eels’ woes as an excuse, when it’s apparent that is well down the pecking order of his priorities.

The Titans are now a genuine force

All in all, it’s hard not to feel genuinely happy for the Gold Coast club. The Titans were a rabble of Parramatta proportions, crumbling under poor results, an inability to lure decent players, financial mismanagement, ailing crowd numbers and various off-field scandals. Then the mooted messiah, Daly Cherry-Evans, back-flipped on his five-year deal at the last moment, leaving the Titans with a bunch of space under the salary cap and no players available to chase.

How things can change in a year. Rookie halfback recruit Ashley Taylor has far more upside the DCE (at a fraction of the cost), while mid-season castoffs Nathan Peats and Konrad Hurrell found a new home on the Gold Coast. The team has an outstanding coach in Neil Henry who is getting far more out of the unfancied Titans squad than anyone thought possible. Now they have snared an all-time great who is only 28 years old, days after one of the finest performances in the club’s history, and five weeks out from an increasingly likely end to a six-year finals drought.

Is it fair?

It’s well within the rules for Hayne to go straight into the Gold Coast side for the remainder of the season – as an unregistered rugby league player, he is not subject to the NRL’s June 30 transfer deadline, and the Titans have cap space. But something still doesn’t sit right that one of the most dominant players of the last decade can waltz straight into a team five weeks after the cut-off for players transferring between clubs. Would the NRL have allowed this loophole to be exploited if they weren’t petrified Hayne would jump ship to another code if they’d insisted he wait until 2017?

The Eels may be better off

Hayne reportedly marched to the beat of his own drum throughout his Eels tenure, sitting out training sessions, and generally carrying on like he was bigger than the team. It’s arguable that he was – but that’s not the case anymore. Parramatta, under Brad Arthur, have been outstanding on the field in 2016, confounding everyone with their ability to perform despite a seemingly endless string of horrendous distractions. They have the basis of a top-eight squad – notwithstanding Kieran Foran’s sad exit – and money to spend. If Hayne had returned to the Eels, it would be all about him. Now that Hayne’s going elsewhere, it can be all about the rebuilding, rejuvenated Eels.

Memo Titans: beware Hayne’s fickle nature

The Titans, quite rightly, are wary of Hayne’s arrival affecting everything they’ve achieved already this year. They have a gritty, character-laden squad, a potential franchise halfback in Taylor, and bona fide stars in the likes of Hurrell, Peats, Greg Bird, Ryan James and a host of emerging guns. What if Hayne doesn’t like not being the only show in town? When the spotlight on him in San Francisco faded, he walked out on the 49ers and chased a laughable quick fix with the Fiji Sevens Rugby team, and has now hit the jackpot on the Gold Coast. But if things don’t go according Hayne’s plan at Robina, the team doesn’t live up to their newly-acquired expectations, or he doesn’t hold the same sort of influence as he did at the Eels, don’t be surprised to see him lob up at Parramatta declaring he really does want to be his junior club’s saviour.

Boost for Blues and Roos

Get excited, NSW fans. Hayne virtually carried the Blues to glory in 2014 on his own back. If he wasn’t there, we’d have just finished the post mortems on Queensland’s 11th straight series triumph – not their 10th in 11 years. Where they fit him in after the rise of James Tedesco remains a big question mark, but Hayne established himself as one of NSW’s top five players in Origin history at fullback, wing and centre. Australia, too, could benefit if Hayne finds form straightaway for the Titans. The Kangaroos’ wing spots are far from locked down for the Four Nations, the incumbent centres are a couple of crocks in Greg Inglis and Josh Dugan, while if he dominates in the No.1 jumper it would make sense to move Darius Boyd back to the flank and install Hayne at fullback.

[YouTube – JM3 MONTAGES]

Add Comment

About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

More nrl News

Special Features