Jarryd Hayne is about to enter his first NRL pre-season in four years. His sole focus is on helping the Titans win their first premiership, but what about the representative honours that potentially await him?
In NSW’s last State of Origin series win, Hayne was player of the series. But that 2014 side has changed dramatically from the one that will run out for the first game of 2017. Aaron Woods and James Tamou should be expected to take their place, with Michael Jennings and Trent Merrin the only other names who you could expect to see in the team.
Game III this year saw NSW turn to youth, and it worked with an 18-14 win. The last second try to Michael Jennings was something out of Queensland’s playbook, finding a way to win a game that they had no right to win. It was a deserved send-off for Blues stalwart Paul Gallen who has finally retired from Origin duty.
This new look team had a sense of stability about it that no NSW team previously had. The back 5 of James Tedesco, Blake Ferguson, Michael Jennings, Josh Dugan and James Mansour gelled perfectly. Halves Matt Moylan and James Maloney provided a sense of balance missing from NSW teams of the past, and a youthful forward pack got on top of the powerhouse Queenslanders.
So is there room for Hayne? He has played in a few different positions since his return to the NRL - Fullback, Centre and Five-Eighth. Hayne hasn’t taken the world by storm in any of them, but expect a different player after a full off-season.
Likely to start at fullback for the Titans, it would take some incredible form to see him selected for NSW over the likes of Moylan and Tedesco. These two are part of the future of the Blues.
If Hayne wants to make the NSW team, and of course he does, Jennings’ centre position will be the one most in danger.
Hayne is familiar with the position, with man-of-the-match performances there for the national side, but it is unlikely that’s where he will be playing for the Titans.
Jennings will have emotional value to the NSW selectors, which means his club form will have to be poor to not be selected. This means that for Hayne to make the team, he needs Jennings, and more precisely his former club Parramatta, to not perform as well. What a game Rugby League can be.
On his day, Hayne is unplayable, but will he be able to recapture the form that saw him become one of the most feared players in Rugby League? The physicality and fleet of foot he gained from the NFL, combined with his uncanny knack of breaking almost every first tackle, will have opposition players scared when he runs at them.
The NSW team has long been criticized for chopping and changing their team when all QLD does is pick the same 17. So regardless of form, is there any room for Hayne in a team that is starting to take on the aura of champions?
Exclusively for Sportsta - Lachlan McKirdy