Parramatta captain Tim Mannah expects the Eels to leave the door open for prodigal son Jarryd Hayne to return home, but admits the club already has a new favourite son.
Off-contract at Gold Coast at the end of the year, Hayne reportedly has until the end of next month to take up a contract option in his favour to remain at the club next season.
However the former NFL convert has already expressed a desire to examine the sporting market, which could possibly include what would be a fairytale return to the blue and gold.
Asked if the ship had sailed on a Hayne reunion, Mannah told AAP: “No, the plane hasn’t flown. But I feel like we’ve got a very capable fullback in Bevan French.
“But at the same time, you’d always want Jarryd in your team somewhere. How that looks, I don’t know. But he’s definitely someone you never say no to having in your team.”
Hayne revealed close friend Mannah was a point of contact during discussions last year on his NRL return, before finally deciding on joining the NRL’s youngest franchise.
But Mannah said he wanted to avoid the possibility of being a middle man a second time.
“We know contracts are more about business than anything else. We can’t tell him what the club would offer, if they would offer anything,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we’re just going to leave it up to him and his manager.”
Eels chief executive Bernie Gurr said the club was likely to be a major player in the free-agent market after officially passing their salary-cap audits for 2016, and were under the cap this year.
But he declined to comment on any potential chase of their former superstar.
“We have no comment on Jarryd, just hopefully that he gets healthy and can play again. It’s a tough game, we don’t like to see anyone injured, so we hope he comes back,” Gurr said.
“He’s been a terrific contributor to Parramatta in the past, but we hope he gets back on field.”
Hayne will miss what would’ve been his first clash with his old teammates on Saturday after picking up an ankle injury in the Titans’ loss last week to Newcastle.
Mannah said he sympathised for his former teammate, who had come under fire in the lead-up to the match for his work ethic at training during the pre-season.
“I’ve seen this happen before where people aren’t happy with the way he trains but, as soon as he starts winning you games and fulfilling on the field, they quickly forget that,” he said.
“I can understand what they’re saying about his training. But once he starts to get on the field and doing his thing, it won’t be long before they quickly forget what the off-season was like.”