Jarryd Hayne’s announcement that he has signed with Gold Coast has been so sudden and so dramatic that it’s been hard for anyone to develop a really complete perspective on it.
Like so many other steps in the Hayne saga, it’s a work in progress whose significance may only become apparent in retrospect.
Nevertheless, these are some of the jumbled thoughts I’ve had in my mind over the last couple of days.
- The bubble has burst
I always thought the Hayne bubble would burst. Not because Hayne wasn’t a gifted sportsman but because nobody could ever live up to that amount of hype.
What does surprise me is how dramatically it has burst. Overnight, Hayne has gone from Olympian to Titan.
Don’t get me wrong – the Titans have a lot of potential and have really come into their own this year.
Still, if you’d asked me who Hayne would be playing for if he ever returned to the NRL, the Titans would have been at the bottom of my list.
Like Sonny Bill, I assumed he’d either seek out a high-profile outfit like the Roosters or return to Parramatta for a victory lap.
- Hayne is no longer an Eel
That brings me to my second point: for the first time, it feels as if Hayne is definitively no longer a Parramatta Eel.
Of course, that’s partly because he’s signed with the Titans.
But players can sign with a new team and remain an icon and legend at their old team. After all, Nathan Peats did it.
But the backlash against Hayne from Parra supporters has been so strong – with some fans going so far as to burn memorabilia online – that it no longer feels as if Pirtek is his home.
- Hayne couldn’t help it
While opinions have been strong about Hayne from both sides of the fence, I feel divided.
On the one hand, I don’t think Hayne could reasonably be expected to return to Parra after the crisis that the club has been through over the last six months.
In that sense, Hayne’s failure to don the blue and gold once more is yet another legacy of the mismanagement that has plagued the NRL’s favourite team over the 2016 season.
- Hayne should have remained loyal
At the same time, I also feel that Hayne had some kind of duty to Parra.
We all know that NRL is a business – we hear it a million times a day.
But here’s the thing – the NRL only works as a business if fans believe that players have some kind of attachment to the club and to the community.
That doesn’t mean that fans should begrudge a player who seeks out a better deal – it happens all the time.
What it does mean is that when a club makes a massive gesture of good faith in a player, the player needs to acknowledge that in an appropriate way.
Parra really went out on a limb with the way they supported Hayne moving to the United States. Memberships play salaries, and Hayne’s salary continued long after he had started playing with the 49ers.
Given Parra’s accommodations, I think that Hayne owed them something special in this case.
- Gold Coast v. Parra may be the NRL’s new rivalry
With Hayne and Peats on board, Gold Coast is now Parra-by-the-sea.
Both players have been massive Parra icons and both players have left the Eels in fairly traumatic circumstances.
With Hayne it was deliberate, with Peats unavoidable, but in both cases their arrival at Robina Stadium has been one of the starker reminders of Parra’s dire year.
It’s going to be weird, then, to see them take on the blue and gold for the first time.
With Eels fans as worked up as they are, it could signal the beginning of a new rivalry, which would be great for the game, as well as for the Titans.
In fact, it could be the Titans’ first great rivalry in the game. Years from now, people may pinpoint this moment as the reason why a team from the Gold Coast and a team from Sydney’s West managed to develop a local barny.
- The Titans will be transformed
I have no doubt that Hayne’s arrival will utterly transform the Titans.
Even if he takes a while to get back into the NRL groove, the magnitude of his presence will be a massive boon for the team.
The suddenness of it all just makes it more galvanizing for the Titans: who among the players or fans would have believed that Hayne could be playing off the bench this weekend?
- Hayne could be Titanic
And, who knows, Hayne could easily hit the ground running.
While we’ve seen how an NRL skill set looks like on the NFL field, we don’t really have much of an idea how an NFL skill set looks on the NRL field, let alone with a player of Hayne’s calibre.
Jarryd is nothing if not innovative and I wouldn’t be surprised if he brings a totally new vision to his game and to the culture and strategy of the Titans as a whole.
For me, the Titans have always been a bit anticlimactic as an opposing team. Whenever the Tigers or the Dogs are playing Gold Coast, it feels a bit like a bye week.
But now I’m going to be counting down the days to Titans standoffs.
Hell, I think I’m going to start watching Titans games every week.
For a moment there, I almost considered skipping the Tigers game against the Cowboys at Leichhardt this weekend so that I could watch the entire Titans-Warriors game.
- Hayne will rock Origin…
Whatever you feel about Hayne in sky blue at a club level, you can’t deny that it will be great to have back for New South Wales.
While playing with San Francisco, Hayne famously observed that NFL was like “Origin every week.”
More than ever, the Blues need a player who’s been doing Origin every week.
With the relationship between New South Wales and Queensland at an all-time low, Hayne might be the man to restore things, especially if he can make his way into Mal’s Kangaroos squad at the end of the year.
- ….but what about Teddy?
Call me a biased Tigers fan, but what’s going to happen to Teddy now that Hayne is back on the scene?
No player deserves a shot at retaining their Blues jersey than James Tedesco, who’s faced an unimaginable streak of unluckiness on his way to Origin level.
It’d be the final nail in the coffin if Hayne were to swan back in and take that all away from him.
While I have to admit it would be amazing to see the Hayne Plane stick it to the Maroons before this great generation of Queenslanders retire, I hope that Teddy keeps his place.
At this point, the Blues need to invest in the future rather than short-term satisfaction – and I’ve got no doubt that Tedesco is the future of New South Wales, if Laurie Daley has the conviction and courage to make him an integral part of the team from this point on.
- Let the excitement continue
As I said, I haven’t fully organised my ideas yet – who has?
What is clear is that this is an exciting time for Rugby League.
In some ways, the fact that Hayne has returned – and returned to the Titans – just makes his story more incredible.
Unlike code-hoppers like Israel Folau or Sonny Bill, he hasn’t managed to really reach his potential for some time.
Whatever your take on his actions, you’d have to admit that the prospect of Hayne playing at full strength is something to look forward to. After all, he’s barely played fifteen minutes of continuous football over the last eighteen months.
Love him or not, I don’t think anybody will be able to suppress a shiver when he runs out at Robina this afternoon.