Should Hayne stay or should he go?

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By , Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    Jarryd Hayne is one of the most naturally gifted players I have ever had the opportunity to watch.

    Being a Parramatta fan, Jarryd was on my radar before he burst onto the scene, at age 18 in 2006, making his debut for the Eels against the Penrith Panthers.

    There were plenty of whispers before then about this prodigy who would be a key part of the squad and potentially help lead the club to our first premiership since 1986.

    We all know how that ended.

    Jarryd never won a premiership with the Eels. The team was often accused of relying on him too heavily and perhaps because of that they underperformed. As for Jarryd, he was inconsistent and at times looked like he was floating in and out of games.

    He’s most fondly remembered for that magic run in 2009, when Parramatta won ten out of their last 11 games to make the finals and then progress to the grand final, but nothing much since. Jarryd left the club at the end of 2015 to pursue his ‘dream’ – playing NFL for the San Francisco 49ers. He returned to the NRL at the end of last year to play for the Gold Coast Titans.

    But being a successful rugby league player takes more than just raw talent. Unfortunately, I’ve seen enough of Jarryd over the past decade to be sure that his legacy will always be tarnished by his off-field antics and that, despite playing footy for over a decade, the only rugby league he will be remembered for is that ‘run’ in 2009 and his role in helping New South Wales win State of Origin in 2014.

    That’s a short legacy for a player many were convinced would be the greatest they had ever seen.

    After watching the Eels plateau from 2009 onward, it does not surprise me in the slightest that things have soured between Jarryd and coach Neil Henry at the Titans.

    I watched Jarryd’s press conference when he signed with the Gold Coast last year and it seemed like something was off. He didn’t look excited to be joining his new club.

    The press conference was underwhelming, as Jarryd stood awkwardly holding a Titans polo shirt with CEO Graham Annesley.

    People questioned why he hadn’t returned to Parramatta – the club he said he would return to if he came back to the NRL. According to Jarryd, the Eels had not made him an offer.

    Perhaps Jarryd was cut off mid-sentence. The full line should have been that the Eels had not made him an offer that was big enough.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge players for chasing the money – in fact, I encourage it. Players have limited careers and during that time absolutely need to maximise their earning potential.

    What bothered me about that situation was the lie – Parramatta made Jarryd an offer, he just didn’t want to take it.

    Parramatta Eels Manly Sea Eagles

    Photo: nrlphotos.com

    Since joining the Titans, his impact on the squad has been underwhelming. Similar to his time at the Eels, Jarryd has drifted in and out of games.

    At times he has shown a lack of urgency and – dare I say – interest. We see a glimpse of magic each week, but it disappears as quickly as it arrived. When Jarryd puts his mind to something he can be brilliant, but there appears to have been a real lack of commitment since he went north.

    Let’s look at the Titans’ recent record. In 2016, before Jarryd arrived, the team has had nine wins, nine losses and one draw for a winning percentage of 47 per cent. Since he signed on, the team has had nine wins and 18 losses for a winning percentage of 33 per cent.

    The Titans look better without him on the field – in particular during the State of Origin period, with wins over teams like the Sharks, Storm and Dragons.

    This is not an article blaming Jarryd for the Titans’ poor season. Injuries have contributed and perhaps the squad is no longer responding to the coach. What’s clear though is that the status quo cannot continue, because this unrest between player and coach can only have a negative impact on the rest of the squad.

    In the last week, things have boiled over.

    Henry came out last week and implied that he never wanted Jarryd at the club in the first place, and that the Origin star’s signing was a decision made by the board.

    If that’s true, I wonder why a board thinks it is their job to have such a determinative say in picking a key member of a playing roster for a coach.

    While the Titans board may have thought that the lure of Hayne would lead to more fans on the Gold Coast, and better attendances at Cbus Super Stadium, something else gets more fans to turn up: winning footy games.

    Alternatively, had Henry been on board with Jarryd signing, it’s worrying that he has the courage to so publicly distance himself from the issue.

    Neil Henry

    AAP Image/Action Photographics, Colin Whelan

    Adding further fuel to the fire, Jarryd claimed that the coach did not speak to him in the week following the Titans’ disgraceful loss to the Broncos.

    It’s, of course, easier to blame someone else, and I wonder whether Jarryd made any attempt to speak to the coach himself?

    Talks were apparently held between Jarryd and Henry yesterday to try and fix the situation, but it sounds like one of them will be parting ways with the Titans at the end of the season – if not before.

    The decision the Titans make will very much define them as a club.

    Should the Gold Coast decide to release Henry and keep Jarryd, what happens if Jarryd does not like the new coach – could a similarly awkward situation arise?

    A player’s job is to listen to their coach and play football. Whether or not they like the coach is irrelevant, they should do their job. This is not happening at the moment.

    On the other hand, should the Titans decide to release Jarryd, where does he go next?

    Unfortunately, it seems that wherever the cross-code star goes, his attitude follows. It’s an attitude which, even more so in recent years, appears to be very focused on himself.

    I would be very surprised if clubs with cap space like the Newcastle Knights or Eels would take such a big chance. Whether the rumours of Jarryd causing friction in the dressing room are true or not, it’s too big a risk to take, particularly for two clubs on the rise.

    Whatever happens, the Titans had better make a decision quick, because the Brisbane Broncos are looking very closely at Ash Taylor. Losing the young-gun half could make Ash a very sad casualty of underlying problems between one player and coach.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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