Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hayne at risk of blowing his Rugby League legacy

Most Australian sports’ fans will be familiar with Jarryd Hayne’s story. Rugby League types will know it well. Twelve months ago a 49er, eight months ago a Fijian Olympic hopeful, six months ago settling down as a Gold Coast Titan. But outside having a diverse and enigmatic career, will Jarryd Hayne be remembered as merely a one-hit wonder?

Hayne must take the Titans performances into his own hands.
When you look back on Hayne’s career and try and recall his achievements, there are a number of individual accolades but few team triumphs.

In 2009, Hayne lit-up the NRL with a breath-taking run of form unlikely to ever be matched again. Almost single-handily, he took his side – Parramatta Eels – all the way to the Grand Final through sheer determination, skill and ability. Fans, coaches and fellow players were in awe of his efforts, even his teammates just rode on the back of ‘Haynesy’.

The Eels eventually fell on the final day of the season to what would later be uncovered to be a cheating Melbourne Storm team, almost $1.5 million over the salary cap. Hayne’s Dally M medal-winning year of 09’ will be forever remembered by not just Eels’ fans, but those who were all their to witness it. Arguably, that Grand Final loss was Hayne’s ‘one-shot’ or small ‘premiership-window’ that players come across in their careers. It’s easy to conclude that if the Storm weren’t cheating the salary cap and were without a player of the influence of Greg Inglis, Parramatta and Hayne would have been crowned NRL Premiers.

Untouchable in 2009, out of favour in 2017.
Moving to Hayne’s only other period of real success in which he helped NSW win the 2014 State of Origin series and took out the Dally M Medal alongside Johnathan Thurston as the NRL’s player of the year, its easy why Hayne is often referred to as an enigma.

Four years had passed between the Grand Final loss and Hayne’s second Dally M, and realistically during this time he achieved very little at club level. In 2012 and 2013, Parramatta collected consecutive wooden spoons, with club failing to provide a team dynamic that could bring out the best in Hayne. 

A move to the edges with the national team for the World Cup in 2013 allowed Hayne to show his best while playing among the game’s best as they took out the tournament. Then came the cope-hopping; the challenges; the dreams. All respectable goals and journeys which few would have the mindset or ability to dare to try.

But for all Hayne’s individual feats and limited team accomplishments, and for a player of his skill level, has he really achieved as much as he should have? His work ethic and commitment have been questioned by his peers in the past – even his former Eels’ captain Nathan Hindmarsh labelled him the ‘worst trainer I have ever seen’.

The only time we’ve seen a fully committed Jarryd Hayne with the work-ethic of a man possessed is when he tried to make it in the NFL at the San Francisco 49ers. Surrounded by some of the best athletes in world sport and challenged to step-up and learn the game, Hayne excelled in his devotion and efforts. Outside of 09’ and the Blues Origin win in 14’, you could say Hayne’s time on the West Coast was the only time we’ve seen him emotionally invested in his training and dedicate himself to getting the best out of his skillset.

In the elite U.S sports scene, Hayne thrived amongst those of his capabilities.
Think about it, how often over the years and now at the Titans does Hayne seem to sleep through games and dawdle across the rounds. So shy is Hayne of the consistency the game’s best players exhibit, he rarely reaches his best. This is where the problem with Jarryd Hayne’s legacy comes into query. Smith, Slater and Thurston are all set to be considered of ‘Immortal’ status because they are without question the most committed, dedicated and consistent players of the last decade.

Right now, Jarryd Hayne is at risk of blowing his legacy as a rugby league player such has been his demise at the Titans. Reports of poor training, individualism, a failure to buy-in and a meagre transformation despite having his first full pre-season in years, has led to former Queensland centre Justin Hodges suggesting the Titans should move Hayne on.

When he returns from an ankle injury in a few weeks, the Titans’ flagship signing has some serious ground to make up with the fans, pundits and even his teammates. There is no way he is displaying the dedication or form to be considered for the NSW State of Origin side, although he will probably be picked on ability alone. 

One of the few times we've seen an emotionally invested Jarryd Hayne on the result of the contest. 
As a kid who grew up in Sydney’s South-West, rose up through the junior ranks of rugby league to make it to the top of his sport and traversed a different path by leaving it all behind to pursue a dream, perhaps Hayne’s story is already well written.

A couple of medals, some finals appearances, a trophy here and there, scintillating flashes of brilliance and the ability to light-up a rugby league crowd like only a select few can – it’s a very commendable career to look back on.

But many players are remembered for just the last few years of their journeys.

So will Hayne merely be recalled for enjoying a Gold Coast holiday for a couple of years before falling out of the game and shipping off to French Rugby? It would hardly leave a legacy as a ‘great’ of the sport worth remembering.
But the real question is, how does Jarryd Hayne want to be remembered?

If you've forgotten just how good Jarryd Hayne can be, check out the video below.