What a difference 12 months makes, with Eels fullback Jarryd Hayne playing the custodian role, in the way it was meant to be played – following his side’s come-from-behind win over Manly, on Saturday night.
If you ask Hayne what the problem was last year, it was simply that he was touching the ball too much. More than a fullback should, and he admitted that he just tried to do too much, when he had the ball in hand.
“I think I was getting my hands on the ball too much,” Hayne said.
“They’ve definitely released me to do a natural fullback’s job. I guess you saw that last night with both the tries I scored. The first try, Benny kicked it for me and usually I’m the one doing the kicking. For the second, Benny made the break and usually I’m the one trying to make the breaks and setting people up. It was really evident last night how much I’ve changed my game.
“It gives me the opportunity to direct Benny and Chrissy around. I like sitting at the back and telling them what to do because I can see the play unfold and just play off the back of them.
”The biggest key for me is always being there when they make a break and I was there last night. I need to keep focusing on that.”
With the Eels making off-season halves purchases in Chris Sandow and Ben Roberts, the plan for Hayne was for him to take a backseat, and chime in when he felt it was needed, or to give the halves some support.
Hayne himself knows that it is the right move for the club, and is more than pleased to be working off the efforts of both Roberts and Sandow, who played well in the win.
That’s the thing I feel,” he said.
“I feel that if the team’s not going well or we’re a bit behind the eight-ball, I’ll jump in there and try to spark something. Last night I really sat back and chimed in when I was needed and sat back when the halves were taking control.
“As soon as I feel threatened that’s when I got back into the halves and tried to create something. Last night we were very comfortable in letting Benny and Chrissy do their thing and try and play off them. I think we just complement each other.”
With the NSW fullback position now up in the air, due to Josh Dugan’s injury, this is the chance for Hayne to stake a claim of his own for the role – although he sees the future return of Dugan, as the catalyst to bring the best out of himself.
“You want to compete against the best and he’s one of the best fullbacks going around,” Hayne said of Dugan.
“I hope he gets back on the field soon because it’s always good to have a challenge, I enjoy challenges and I enjoy rising to the occasion. I think he’ll be back just before Origin so it’s going to be an interesting time. Brett Morris is in good form as well.”