Neil Henry’s Titanic headache: Is Hayne worth the pain?

Tom Rock Columnist

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    Jarryd Hayne is the superstar rugby league loves to hate. The two-time Dally M winner has represented his state and country, captained his club and carried Parramatta into the 2009 grand final.

    His ability is undeniable, and what he’s achieved is indisputable. But is he more trouble than he’s worth? Is there a tipping point where a player, regardless of their status or ability, becomes expendable?

    There’s little doubt that Jarryd has become an almighty distraction of late, attracting more attention for his exploits off the field than his performances on it. He’s been called everything from the God of the Gold Coast to Donald Trump, with rumours flying of fat camps, missed training sessions, and more leadership spills than the ALP.

    Hayne has clashed with coaches, jousted with journos and argued with administrators, creating chaos 140 characters at a time. And we’ve only just finished Round 2.

    From a purely footballing perspective, the Gold Coast would be wise to move on from Jarryd Hayne. Since his return from the NFL, Hayne has been unfit, unreliable and injury prone. And while his performances have been largely underwhelming for a player of his ability, it’s his attitude that worries me the most.

    His irreverent approach towards preparation and training sets a dangerous example for impressionable younger players, and the lack of respect shown to Neil Henry puts captains Ryan James and Kevin Proctor in an incredibly difficult position.

    Jarryd Hayne Gold Coast Titans NRL Finals Rugby League 2016 tall

    But can the Titans justify jettisoning their marquee player in the interests of preserving team harmony?

    When faced with a similar situation, the Wests Tigers certainly thought so. They spent the better part of 18 months trying to excise a locker room headache, agreeing to pay over $700k for South Sydney to take Robbie Farah off their hands. Farah was the club captain, a Tigers life member and the NSW hooker when the decision was made to move him on. So the decision is not without precedent.

    However, it’s doubtful whether the Titans can afford to make the same call.

    Jarryd Hayne is more than just a footballer. His brand is just as important to the Titans as his performances on the field. Since securing his signature, memberships have increased, ticket sales are on the up and corporate sponsors are competing to align their brand to the Gold Coast Titans.

    For a club without an owner, Jarryd Hayne has been a godsend.

    So even though Hayne may drive Neil Henry insane, the commercial reality is that he’s worth the effort. Despite the circus that accompanies his every move, Hayne is vital to the future of rugby league on the Gold Coast. Think of it as short-term Hayne for long-term gain.

    A Knight to remember
    The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) has confirmed Jarrod Mullen’s B-sample tested positive for drostanolone, a banned anabolic steroid. Mullen is now facing a four-year exclusion from rugby league, which is likely to end his NRL career.

    We don’t have all the facts yet, but the evidence does appear to be fairly cut and dry. Short of the blue denim in his veins contaminating Mullen’s blood sample, the probability of two consecutive false positives is extremely low.

    Knights player Jarrod Mullen during the NRL Auckland Nines. (AAP Image/SNPA, Teaukura Moetaua)

    Many have speculated about why Mullen chose to get on the gear. According to the reputable folks at www.steroid.com, drostanolone can assist in muscle recovery and the maintenance of muscle strength. For a player cursed with hamstrings the consistency of crepe paper, it doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to connect the dots.

    If Mullen is guilty, he deserves whatever punishment comes his way. But what disappoints me about this situation is that his reputation will forever be tarnished by this singular yet spectacular lapse in judgement. In the same way that Rodney Howe and Robbie O’Davis became punchlines and punching bags, Mullen’s career now comes with an asterisk.

    Mullen was never the sort of player to fill out a box score and hog the silverware, but in many ways he was the complete modern footballer. His strength was undoubtedly his running game.

    Blessed with acceleration to rival the Sydney property market, Mullen was always a danger with the ball in hand. He possessed a solid kicking game, delivered excellent service for his ball carriers, and was one of the strongest defensive halves since Andrew Johns.

    And speaking of Johns, no conversation about Jarrod Mullen is complete without a mention of the eighth Immortal. For those of you who didn’t grow up in Newcastle, it’s difficult to describe exactly what Joey meant to the Hunter region.

    Imagine the pressure of not only playing first grade as a teenager, but replacing a local hero and a man rated as one of the greatest of all time. These were Sideshow Bob-sized shoes to fill for an 18-year-old kid still playing handball at recess.

    Mullen’s talent and ability have never been questioned, but unfortunately, his body betrayed him. Over the last few years, the fragile halfback averaged around 13 games per season as he battled a myriad of upper and lower leg injuries. The extensive time on the sidelines robbed Mullen of confidence and consistency, relegating him to an afterthought in Newcastle’s struggling attack.

    If Mullen is found guilty, throw the book at him – there’s no place for cheating in our game. But it’s such a shame that a single poor decision can irreparably damage the legacy of such a fine footballer.

    Jarrod Mullen kicks for Newcastle wearing their high-vis fluro strip

    Fifth tackle option
    Here are five quick thoughts on the action from Round 2.

    1. Coen Hess. Believe the hype.

    2. The tight spiral thrown by James Roberts Tom Brady to Jordan Kahu at Suncorp Stadium was one of the most blatant forward passes I have seen in many years. I understand the Bunker is unable to rule on such things, but that was just laughable.

    The touchy who missed it will be lucky to be manning the canteen for the Coogee Dolphins this weekend.

    3. Some disturbing footage coming out of New Zealand on Friday evening. In the 35th minute of the Warriors versus Storm game, Melbourne forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona was lifted by three New Zealand defenders (no small feat for a bloke the size of a small sedan). While airborne, Asofa-Solomona appeared to purposefully duck his head into a vertical, and much more dangerous, position.

    This motion caused the defenders to drop him, and resulted in a Melbourne penalty. In light of recent events, I was shocked that a player would put himself at such risk just to draw a penalty. Hopefully my eyes deceived me.

    4. It was hard not to feel all warm and fuzzy watching Newcastle celebrate their first victory in 336 days. From the opening whistle, it was clear the Knights wanted it more.

    They dominated the middle third of the field, making easy metres against a weary Gold Coast defence. The performance was far from perfect, and with the Titans reduced to a single interchange in the second half, Newcastle really should have run away with the contest. But a win is still a win, and beggars can’t be choosers. I’m sure there’ll be a few sore heads in Newcastle this morning.

    5. There is a horror injury toll coming out of Round 2.

    Here’s a list of the star players who were unable to finish their game due to injury: Will Hopoate, Kerrod Holland, Blake Ferguson, Antonio Winterstein, Matt Scott, Jarryd Hayne, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Matt Gillett and Bryce Cartwright. That’s just to name a few! And somehow Elijah Taylor managed to stay on the park despite head-butting a chainsaw in the opening minute.

    Follow Tom on Twitter @_TomRock_

    Tom Rock
    Tom Rock

    A fair-weather Newcastle Knights fan, Tom doesn’t leave anything on the field. He always gives 110% and never forgets to give full credit to the boys. But in a game of two halves, it’s important not to look too far ahead, so Tom’s just taking it one week at a time. Follow him on Twitter @_TomRock_.

    The State of Origin teams for Game 1 at Suncorp Stadium have been announced - be sure to check out all of The Roar's expert reaction to the sides named for the NSW Blues and Queensland Maroons.