The worst-kept secret in the NRL was revealed this week, with Jarryd Hayne returning to Parramatta.
Will it help Parramatta or distract them?
Hayne never looked comfortable at the Gold Coast, playing only a handful of decent games since returning from the NFL in 2016. While the Titans squeezed into the 2016 finals, they plummeted to second-last in 2017. Hayne was allegedly behind Neil Henry’s sacking and many disillusioned fans wanted Hayne gone instead. Hayne started as a heavily-hyped saviour (remember “Hayne Cam”?) and ended as a divisive diva, becoming a running joke and heaven for Facebook meme-makers. Now he’s gone, the Titans can focus on an eventual finals return.
The current Rugby League World Cup showed that when Hayne cares, he’s a valuable player, leading Fiji to a surprise semi final. If this motivated Hayne shows up at Parramatta, Eels fans will be happy.
Eels coach Brad Arthur is key to getting the right Hayne on the field. He offered the maligned Mitchell Moses a spot early in 2017; leaving the struggling Wests Tigers, Moses blossomed, playing 16 games for 67 points as Parramatta made the finals for the first time since 2009; he continued with a wonderful World Cup campaign for Lebanon.
Ideally, Hayne should complement a resurgent Eels team. Arthur can harness this by giving Hayne room to play footy, keep him motivated (Hayne should reach 200 Eels game by late 2018 or early 2019) and limit off-field drama. If Arthur can guide Parramatta through their salary cap nightmare and take them to a top-four finish the following season, he can surely handle Hayne.