When Jarryd Hayne phoned to say he was prepared to take a A$700,000 (NZ$760,000) pay cut and return home to Parramatta, the new Gold Coast coach wished him all the best and said: “I hope you kill it … except when you play against the Titans.”
Hayne walked away from a A$1.2 million (NZ$1.3m) contract with the Garth Brennan-coached Titans to sign a A$500,000 (NZ$543,000) one-year deal with his original rugby league club.
Now the Titans can have the last laugh if they can beat Hayne and his Eels on Sunday, and shorten the odds of them collecting the dreaded wooden spoon.
Hayne quipped there would have been more Eels fans had the game been played on the Australian holiday strip rather than ANZ Stadium, which will be a tough sell this weekend.
“Last time the Parra chant went up there,” Hayne said. “It would have been great to stay up there but it wasn’t to be.”
The off-contract Hayne has shown glimpses of his best in recent weeks, but would need another solid five weeks if the Eels were to justify spending anywhere near the kind of money they have paid him this year.
Brennan was still finding his feet as the Titans new head coach when the call came from Hayne.
“I remember Jarryd ringing me to tell me he wanted to go back to Parra and said, ‘My heart is with Parra’,” Brennan said.
“He walked away from a lot of money. And you have to give him credit for walking away from that money. He did it before with the NFL.
“Not too many people would have did what he did. He could have dragged it out, sucked money out of the club and gone through the motions. But he said ‘my heart isn’t in it and I want to go home’.
“I would have loved to have worked with Jarryd because he has the ability to do things on the field not too many others can do. But I was also pleased with his honesty. And he has been good for them the last few weeks.”
Hayne has been given a licence to roam by Eels coach Brad Arthur, often swapping with fullback Clint Gutherson in attack.
“I think health wise, I feel like I’m on top of things now,” Hayne said.
“I’ve had a couple of internal issues the last 18 months and I feel like I’ve finally fixed it and I feel great.”
Because Foxtel was yet to be switched over to his new house, Hayne had not caught a great deal of the Titans in recent weeks, but from what he had watched he said “they’re slowly building into a good force”.
“Ash Taylor is starting to understand consistency is the biggest thing to take your game to that next level,” Hayne said of the Gold Coast halfback.
“I know how much he loves ‘Thursto’ [Johnathan Thurston] as well and he’s one of greatest because of how consistent he’s been through his career.
“With their forward pack it will help Ash. It’s the first real year they’ve all been together with Jai Arrow coming there, ‘J Wall’ [Jarrod Wallace] in his second year, Ryan James in his second year as captain.
“It took him a while to really step up to the plate and understand that leadership role, and this year he’s been one of their best.”
Meanwhile, Brennan said he had watched Tyrone Peachey’s move to fullback with interest but the new recruit is expected to start at centre when he runs out for the Titans next year.
“He’s certainly not a bench player and will be in my starting 13,” Brennan said.
– Sydney Morning Herald