It’s a testament to the impact Jarryd Hayne had on the game at the back end of the 2009 season that the Eels’ charge to the Grand Final is still largely seen as the end product of his extreme talents. But in the years following the stunning run, Hayne has become one of the most divisive figures in the rugby league world.
He has been widely blamed for the sacking of Gold Coast Titans’ head coach Neil Henry as the embers of the club’s 2017 season burned out. Hayne reached peak notoriety as suggestions that his lack of impact on the field, his lack of intensity and desire on the training pitch and his dislike for the authority of Henry were met by reports that the coaching staff didn’t want the former Eels star to be brought to the glitter strip in the first place.
A divisive figure
As 2017 slipped away, and online social media became a cesspool of hate for Hayne, expectation that he would again be given the opportunity to pull on the green and gold of Australia never raised its head. The idea that he could slip back in to a lower-profile role with the Fiji side, as he did way back in 2008, seemed the more likely outcome.
A brief chat with Fiji coach Mick Potter confirmed Hayne would represent the Bati and hope to use strong performances for Fiji as a catalyst for a return to form as he had done almost a decade ago.
The Eels benefitted greatly from a returned Hayne after his 2008 exploits with Fiji. Titans fans, many of whom are divided on Hayne’s role with the club moving forward, could be forgiven for day-dreaming of what a star like him could do for them if he were able to recapture his best form.
Young playmaker Ashley Taylor, himself the subject of rumour and speculation about a departure away from the glorious holiday destination south of Brisbane, could benefit greatly from an improved impact out of Hayne. It would allow him significantly more creative freedom and the chance to continue his development as a fine young half.
Back to the future for Hayne
Hayne was part of all three State of Origin games for the New South Wales Blues in 2017, which included a strong performance in game one as the Blues dominated a stunned Queensland outfit on home soil. But as with many in the side, games two and three saw marked declines in application, effort and performance, with results dipping again. Queensland would win another series and many were quick to label Hayne as one of the key reasons the Blues struggled.
Before trying his hand at the American style of football in late 2014, and earning a gig catching punts and kicks with the San Francisco 49ers, Hayne had sparkled as one of the best players in the series as the Blues ended an eight-year winning streak by the Queensland Maroons. The player that Hayne was used to be could not have felt more distant as 2017 ground to a shuddering halt for Hayne and the Titans.
Reports suggest that Hayne looks a more relaxed and comfortable man in and around the Fiji playing group in the buildup to the World Cup. That bodes well for Potter and the thousands of Fijians counting on him and their team to put together a memorable campaign.
But this tournament could act, once again, as a springboard for Hayne to recapture the golden form of his career. Gold Coast Titans fans will certainly be hoping that this is the case ahead of 2018.
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