Deja vu all over again.
The Jarryd Hayne to Rugby Union story is rearing its head once again, after several months lying dormant.
Hayne has come to the end of his contract with the NRL’s Parramatta Eels and negotiations are ongoing, and inevitably he is being linked with a switch to the fifteen man code, which on the surface is plausible.
Parramatta Eels coach Bernie Gurr told Australian media this week: “We’re still talking to Jarryd. We’ve obviously expressed our desire, and let that be known publicly that we’d like Jarryd to stay at our club.”
Unlike previous Hayne to union rumours, this time he is being linked not with an Aussie Super Franchise but with a move across the ditch to New Zealand. Stuff.co.nz report that Hayne could end up in three of New Zealand’s five Super franchises, namely the Crusaders, Highlanders or Chiefs.
Auckland’s experiment with Benji Marshall backfired horribly, while the Hurricanes already have a backline brimming with talent, including former League standout Ngani Laumape.
Hayne would need at least a season of rugby under his belt before being considered for Fiji’s squad, and with the season well underway in Europe, Super Rugby might seem the more attractive option.
It could also make sense from the ticket sales point of view, with the novelty factor of an NRL superstar like Hayne likely to put much-needed bums on seats for whichever franchise – theoretically – that signs him. From Hayne’s point of view, he could develop as a union player outside of the Australian media spotlight.
It is certainly his last chance to make the switch, a year out from the Rugby World Cup in Japan, with Fiji already suggesting they’d be eager to look him ahead of the tournament.
The challenge of a new sport certainly won’t phase. Speaking to RugbyPass in 2017 Hayne said: “I just don’t fear things. I don’t fear a challenge. That’s the biggest thing. I enjoy that and embrace it. I look at things and if it’s something that challenges me mentally and physically and, more importantly, spiritually, then I am all for it.
“It’s been such a God journey more than anything else. To be able to go to another sport and another country, another culture – something I hadn’t experienced before – that was huge. I needed God more than anything else because there were a lot of dark days [in the NFL]. I think just in general as a person I want to take myself out of my comfort zone and go on an adventure.”
Speaking in February, giant Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo told foxsports.com.au.: “There’s obviously been talk around the camp that Jarryd’s potentially coming to play for Fiji.”
“Just the excitement of hearing that Jarryd Hayne might be coming across again is pretty exciting.”
Fijian coach John McKee has also suggested he’s open to the idea.
“I’d certainly look at Jarryd’s form if he came back to rugby,” McKee said.
“Realistically it’d be a hard job now with rugby league going through to September; it doesn’t leave much of a window for him. He’s got a lot of good players he’s up against, so if he’s good enough he’ll get in but he’d have to be outplaying some outstanding players.”
But is the jump possible? Absolutely.
Hayne is no Sam Burgess – his game is built around skill as well as athleticism and power. While a year wasn’t long enough for the Englishman to make the jump from League forward to Union back, Hayne could surely adjust quicker. But quick enough to make a Fijian backline brimming with world-class talent? There in lies the rub.
His recent sporting résume certainly suggests it’s possible.
Any lingering misgiving about Hayne’s footballing abilities will have evaporated when he defied the odds not only to make an NFL roster in 2016, but by excelling just months on from first donning that sport’s famous body armour.
Making the Olympics with the Fijian 7s was too steep a mountain to climb given the time frame he allowed himself. Going from the NFL to the cardio extremes of Sevens was too big an ask.
But the step from League to Union is an altogether more manageable one. The question is, would just one season of Union – be it in Super Rugby or in France – be long enough time for Hayne to acclimatise? Could the disappointment he experienced in his bid to make Rio have chastened him?
If he does risk it, prepare yourself not just for the Hayne Plane but for a giant-sized media Hype Train trailing behind him.
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