Jarryd Hayne lining up for the Gold Coast Titans.
Jarryd Hayne lining up for the Gold Coast Titans. DAVE HUNT

Hayne to Eels: will the prodigal son return?

JARRYD Hayne back at the Parramatta Eels.

It's what blue and gold fans desperately wanted to see after he returned from his foray into the NFL and rugby sevens, only for the superstar to shock them and snap up a deal with the Titans. While Hayne couldn't be accommodated by the Eels in 2016, with the club under an interim boss in the wake of salary cap breaches, he has reportedly reached out to Parra to see if a belated comeback can be arranged.

Hayne, who would ditch a $1.2 million option for next season in his favour should he leave the Gold Coast, remains a tantalising prospect for Eels fans - but would it be a good idea?

Several factors make it a distinct long shot. The move for a deal is one-sided so far, with Hayne's camp reaching out to the Eels, not vice versa; the club is reportedly wary after missing out last time and being blamed by the superstar, plus Hayne would reportedly need to accept a pay cut of $400,000 a season and a possible position change, according to Fairfax; and Parramatta is comfortable with the younger, cheaper and improving players it has covering his position(s).

We break down the main issues of a potential Hayne-to-Eels return.


Yes. The club is back at the point where the necessary shuffling could be done to fit in his sizeable salary, should it be deemed a good investment. The big-money players currently on the Eels' books for 2018 are Mitchell Moses, Corey Norman and Michael Jennings (reportedly in the $750,000-$850,000 range).

Despite his undoubted brilliance, it would be a big call for Parramatta to fork out $1 million-plus for Hayne, a figure they are not keen to entertain even with the salary cap rise, and some players would no doubt have to be moved on. Two obvious issues are that the team currently has a decent balance across the field without anyone earning truly elite money and the club is probably more inclined to chase an elite hooker, given it has two strong fullbacks.


Hayne would want to play fullback, as he would be after top-end money and the halves positions are filled by Moses and Norman. While Hayne has previously predicted a late-career move into five-eighth, Moses and Norman would put that on hold and Hayne's first foray into No.6 was not especially impressive, especially compared to his third-playmaker exploits as a No.1.

Yet throwing Hayne straight back into fullback causes headaches - on top of one that is already emerging during this season.


Jarryd Hayne in action for the Parramatta Eels in 2014.
Jarryd Hayne in action for the Parramatta Eels in 2014. ROBB COX

Bevan French (21), signed through to the end of 2019, is the club's long-term fullback option. This was set to be his first full season at No.1, before injury intervened and pushed Clint Gutherson (22, also signed through 2019) to fullback, where he has played superbly.

Coach Brad Arthur will have to decide if French returns to fullback immediately in his comeback (which may come this week) and Gutherson goes back to No.6 - which seems likely given makeshift five-eighth Brad Takairangi is now injured. The other potential spanner in the works is Moses being granted a mid-season release, which would see him pitched straight into the side at No.6, leaving French and Gutherson battling for the No.1.

Ultimately, Moses-Norman will be the 2018 halves pairing, meaning Hayne, French and Gutherson would end up in a fullback logjam, where one could be shunted to the wing and another from the side altogether. While Hayne, 29, is a superstar, the flipside is that French and Gutherson are both excellent prospects, they are far younger and cheaper, and the Eels are more than comfortable with them in the team moving forward.

Centre is the other position Hayne could fill, yet Jennings is contracted through 2019 (on overs for a centre), 2014 Rabbitohs premiership winner Kirisome Auva'a (off contract) has performed well thus far for the club, while the versatile Takairangi has been excellent value in the backline and is also signed through 2019. As for wing - you just don't buy a player like Hayne on big money to dump him on the wing, even with Semi Radradra leaving.

Simply, Hayne is not a great fit for the Eels currently unless he shunts other players aside and that is something the club does not seem inclined to do.


On top of the issues set out above, there's one thing to remember from Hayne's first stint at the Eels: they never won anything, despite how brilliantly he played, to the tune of two Dally M Medals.

And reports of Hayne unsettling teammates on the Gold Coast with a slack attitude to training are nothing new: they also surfaced regularly at the Eels, along with the impression that he only aimed up to his truly spectacular best when the mood took him. That took the Eels to a lot of highs - but none that won trophies, while there were also plenty of water-treading periods.

The club would want to be convinced that Hayne returning to the club means he is laser-focused on ticking the one unmarked box in his career: a premiership, something the club infamously hasn't seen since 1986. If they get the Hayne that dragged NSW to a drought-breaking Origin victory in 2014, any quirks he brings may be worth it. If they get a guy earning big dollars to return to his comfort zone, forget about it.

The noise around Hayne this season, notwithstanding an excellent man-of-the-match return from injury on the weekend, is that he is more trouble than he is worth and has few clubs interested given his current lofty price tag.


Jarryd Hayne after an NFL preseason game for the San Francisco.
Jarryd Hayne after an NFL preseason game for the San Francisco. Tony Avelar

A refresher: after Hayne became a megastar and a top earner in 2009, the club finished 12th in 2010, 14th in 2011, 16th in 2012, 16th in 2013 and 10th in 2014. That's two wooden spoons, no finals appearances. Arthur's team, currently without Hayne, seems to be on a far more promising trajectory than that - and Arthur strikes no one as a coach who would indulge a rock-star, bigger-than-the-team attitude.

His is an outfit that last year was docked 12 points in the salary cap scandal and still had sufficient pride to finish with 13 wins - which would have put them into the finals.


If the Eels signed Hayne on a multi-year deal, it may be the last contract he signs in the NRL. To some, it would seem fitting that he ends his career at Parramatta, the club his name was synonymous with in the past, to where he was always meant to return once his NFL dreams were realised. A return, provided it came with excellent form, may gradually soothe the awkward feelings of Eels fans who could not understand his Gold Coast move after he swore he would only rejoin the NRL with Parramatta.

From a football perspective, it would also seem to make sense. The Titans (currently 15th) remain a brittle outfit and look some way off being premiership contenders, while the Eels (10th) have genuine upside. The Titans just dropped boom halves prospect Kane Elgey, showing he's not quite the finished article, while the immensely impressive Ash Taylor continues to be linked with a Broncos raid for 2019. The Eels have a robust pack and Moses alongside Norman is an exciting playmaking proposition, offering hope of a title charge in an NRL landscape ripe for the picking by rising sides. If Hayne took the Eels to a premiership, he would forever be a Parramatta icon, rather than a somewhat-frustrating highlights machine.

One thing Hayne probably wouldn't relish is a return to the Sydney media scene - although with his constant presence in the news, it would be like turning up the heat from 500 degrees Celsius to 700. And with the end of his career closer than the start, a return to a major media market would allow him to better push his off-field enterprises.

The final verdict? At this stage, pretty unlikely.

News Corp Australia

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