Hayne prophecy reportedly fulfilled on the Gold Coast
ON THIS day two years ago, Jarryd Hayne suited up for the first time in San Francisco 49ers colours. He sliced through the Texas Houstons for a 53-yard run and his NFL pipe dream became a reality.
Twelve months after that and Hayne was making his debut for the Gold Coast Titans against the Warriors. He crunched Bodene Thompson to prevent him reaching him the stripe and later belted Shaun Johnson to force a knock on. He was back.
Fast forward to August, 2017, and Hayne has been dominating the headlines again, this time for a feud with coach Neil Henry, that despite the Titans mentor's denials, looks like costing at least one of them their job.
Hayne appeared to come out the winner in the bitter spat disrupting life on the glitter strip. After crisis talks on Monday it was reported Henry's a dead man walking.
But there are also suggestions Henry's impending departure doesn't mean Hayne is safe. The Titans are reportedly open to pushing the representative fullback out the door too. But crucially, he has the support of key players.
The Courier Mail reports gun Gold Coast halves Ash Taylor and Kane Elgey will refuse to sign new contracts with the club if Henry stays and Hayne goes. Titans CEO Graham Annesley has said previously the issues at the club go far beyond Hayne and Henry, which seems to be spot on.
Earlier in the week Newcastle great Matthew Johns said Taylor was the most important figure in this entire affair. The 22-year-old is a future superstar and someone the Titans can build their club around for the next decade. He needs to be happy.
Johns said the club should take whatever action is necessary to placate Taylor and keep him at the club beyond 2018 (when his current contract expires) because with Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett signalling his interest in luring the No. 7 to the Broncos, the stakes are high.
If today's reports are correct and Taylor has chosen Hayne over Henry, that prophecy has been fulfilled. It's why Henry will likely be given his marching orders after Thursday night's game against Parramatta.
But even if Hayne is retained he can't escape blame. Plenty have questioned the on-field effort of the man earning roughly $1.2 million a season.
"His performances haven't lived up to being a marquee player and getting the wage that he is," Eels legend and NSW Blues adviser Peter Sterling said on Fox Sports last night.
"If you're on that money you should be out there trying to win the game for your team ... I don't see it enough in Jarryd. I don't see effort on effort."
Many people share that belief and with good reason. He - along with plenty of teammates - have performed well below par in 2017. It's why the club is third last.
But why is Hayne so far from his best? Is he bored? Does he not care anymore?
When the prodigal son's return to the NRL was trumpeted at a press conference on the Gold Coast a year ago, much of his talk revolved around Parramatta. He'd said previously if he returned to rugby league he wanted to play for the Eels again. At that press conference he said "it was disappointing" and "it hurts me" he wasn't shaking hands with Eels coach Brad Arthur and receiving a blue and gold jersey instead.
The writing was on the wall. It sounded like he didn't want to be on the Gold Coast. How can you expect someone to play their best football up north when his mind was in Sydney's western suburbs?
Hayne's attitude has been routinely criticised. It started when news broke the Titans' leadership group fined him for his efforts during pre-season. Former Eels teammate Nathan Hindmarsh says the 29-year-old is an enigma and you can never be sure whether the Hayne Plane will take off or stall on the runway.
But NSW teammates Paul Gallen and Aaron Woods have both spoken on radio this week about how professional and meticulous he is in his preparation in Origin camps. So is it as simple as being motivated by the big occasion but not by the weekly grind of the NRL?
The man has played in front of huge crowds in the NFL. Nothing in any football code in Australia can compare to that, save for an Origin game and NRL and AFL grand finals. Before he headed to the US, Hayne spoke often about his admiration for sport in the States being as much an entertainment business as anything else. He wanted to be part of the bright lights, and he wanted those lights to be on him.
But the lights aren't as bright at 6pm on a Friday at Cbus Super Stadium as they are on a Monday night in San Francisco. How can you get excited playing in front of 10,000 fans in a half-empty stadium in Robina when you've experienced the roar of 70,000 at Levi's stadium?
Two years on from first wearing the 49ers jersey, maybe that reality is hitting Hayne harder than he could ever have imagined.