With Josh Dugan fast improving, and an outside chance to snare the NSW fullback position from Jarryd Hayne, the man himself has said that will all this talk of Dugan, it is motivating him to play out of his skin every week.
As Hayne attempts to re-capture his form in 2009, which saw him win the Dally M Award, he’ll get his first taste of action in 2011, as the Eels play the Tigers in their trial game at Campbelltown Stadium.
Hayne is the early front-runner to retain his fullback position, with NSW coach Ricky Stuart being a great fan of his, but he did acknowledge that after Dugan’s showing in the All-Stars game, he too is staking his claims.
”He’s a great young player coming through,” Hayne said at an Eels gala ball in Lilyfield, held to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Parramatta’s first premiership win. ”He’s been in some fine form and he’s very elusive so he’s got a great career ahead of him.”
With Dugan playing great footy, and what he would hope will end up being consistent footy, Hayne admits that he is watching his back.
”I guess it gives you more motivation to play better and a little bit more onus that you know you’ve got someone right behind you,” he said.
Hayne, who has not played since the Eels failed to make the finals in 2010, is looking forward to re-kindling the rivalry between he and Benji Marshall, who says that the Eels are a darkhorse, and that Hayne is the player to watch.
”I think he’s trying to take a bit of pressure off himself,” Hayne said last night.
”Last year he stepped his game up a notch – if you want to be the best you’ve got to come up with different ways to better your game and I think Benji found that last year and took the Tigers to one game short of the grand final. He’s going to have an outstanding year I think.”
Hayne has also praised the club for the re-signings of Tim Mannah and Matthew Keating.
”He’s obviously a very key figure. I think he’s going to come of age in the next couple of years,” Hayne said of Mannah.