Jarryd Hayne has been making noises about returning home to Parramatta since the start of the season, but now he will get the chance to prove just how much the blue and gold means to him.
NRL.com understands the Eels are open to welcoming him back – but only on their terms. Those terms are likely to be a take-it-or-leave-it $500,000 one-year deal that would mean Hayne would sacrifice at least half a million dollars if he chooses to walk out on the Titans to rejoin his old team.
This isn’t as straightforward as whether the Eels want him back. Firstly, the Eels won’t come anywhere near the $1.2 million he is on at the Titans should he ask for a release.
Eels coach Brad Arthur is a man in constant pursuit of a bargain buy. Clint Gutherson, Nathan Brown … signings who have given him value for his buck.
If the Eels offered Hayne $850,000 to return after his stint in rugby sevens in 2016, you can be guaranteed they feel he’s worth far less now following a year to forget on the Gold Coast.
Given the Titans are owned by the NRL, any potential pay-out wouldn’t be looked upon favourably by the governing body.
There’s also the possibility of new owners in the short term, who would have a huge say in whether Hayne can leave the club.
If Hayne is willing to leave behind a huge amount of money, it will prove to Parramatta his commitment to what they have been building since his abrupt exit at the end of 2014.
There’s a reason no club fought to pry him away from the Titans when he was deciding in May whether to take up the one-year option in his deal.
They are the same reasons the new Eels board will have hesitations over bringing him back.
There is a perception that the Hayne pain outweighs the Hayne gain.
Which leads to the next hurdle in Hayne’s road back to the Eels – convincing the board his signature is worth the circus that comes with it.
The newly formed board have reservations about luring him to a club that has only just recovered from a decade-long culture of self-interest. Arthur will need to convince the directors otherwise if things progress as many expect in the coming weeks.
Arthur, too, will need convincing. That Hayne really is willing to buy into what the Eels have built under his watch and put the team first.
But given Hayne won the Dally M medal in his last season under Arthur, the Eels coach is likely to back himself to get the best out of a player very few have figured out.
Hayne’s tweet on Thursday afternoon, in which he declared that he had not asked his manager Wayne Beavis to speak to Sydney clubs, was interesting, to say the least.
If Hayne wanted to return to Parramatta, you can be rest assured he wouldn’t need his manager to make that happen. Perhaps he chose his words carefully.
Hayne is best friends with Eels captain Tim Mannah and has always had a good relationship with the coach.
No manager is in a better position than Hayne to orchestrate a return to the Eels, especially considering Beavis’s soured relationship with the club over the salary cap saga last year.
Not to mention Beavis is no longer an accredited NRL agent and is prohibited from acting on behalf of his client.
Hayne could have come out and put this all to bed on Thursday by declaring he will be at the Titans in 2018. He didn’t.
NRL.com reported only last week the lengths the Titans have gone through to create a happy environment for Hayne on the Gold Coast.
New coach Garth Brennan poached strength and conditioning guru Hayden Knowles, one of Hayne’s closest confidants, from the Roosters as well as former Eels trainer Craig Catterick to provide some familiar and trusted faces around him.
But perhaps it’s not the faces, but places, around him that will matter most in the end. The Titans put Hayne first in punting Henry. Only time will tell if he will reciprocate that favour.