When we look back at the 2016 NRL season, what are we going to remember? Terrible video ref decisions, the farcical Tyson Frizell suspension, Corey Norman’s sex tape, key players kickin’ it with bikies, a match-fixing scandal, or the Warriors’ alleged Stillnox abuse?
Even the marquee event, State of Origin, was a snooze this year. NRL 2016 has been trash, plain and simple.
As NRL fans, we are as resilient as the game itself, which – in the face of so much adversity – simply refuses to die. But we were due for a good news story at some point.
Hayne is back. At this point, it’s easy to shrug this news off, roll your eyes, make another ‘dream’ joke, or tell me you’re off this story. Jarryd Hayne is the most over-exposed rugby league player since ET was photographed nude in the 90s, but let’s just focus for a minute and remember why that is.
Anyone trying to paint the Eels as victims here need to cast their minds back only a few months ago and remember the loyalty Parramatta showed to Nathan Peats.
Dude is a freak. Looking at this purely from the perspective of someone who loves to watch rugby league, let me remind you about dude’s cutout passes down the left side. His ability to stop on a blade of grass and switch direction. His chip and chase. The back half of 2009. Hayne is a two-time Dally M winner who has previously turned games around single-handedly.
I’m as sick of the story as you are, but like I said, let’s just remember that Jarryd Hayne was an exceptionally watchable player, and, in a turn of trends – is actually coming back to the NRL.
Despite this, after today’s decision to join the Gold Coast Titans on a 1.2 million-dollar deal, Hayne has become the easiest target for armchair athletes since Nick Kyrgios.
Hot takes about Hayne’s lack of ‘loyalty’ in not returning to the Eels – a club crippled with impotent management – are garbage. Anyone trying to paint the Eels as victims here need to cast their minds back only a few months ago and remember the loyalty Parramatta showed to Nathan Peats.
Eels fans – the true victims here – need look no further than the club’s mismanagement and keep Hayne’s timeline free of their fury.
If NRL fans are looking for something to be upset about, and I know you are, it’s that the league is once again looking like the ex with low self-esteem. The players know they can treat their ex like dirt, have a few flings on the side and return to open arms and a home-cooked meal anytime they like. Hayne has basically been swiping right on the couch and still scored 1.2 milly.
In signing with the Titans, Hayne is helping not only one of the most maligned franchises in rugby league but helping the game as well. The Gold Coast has been a valuable but damn-near impossible market for not only the NRL, but also the AFL and ARU. No code has truly made the market their own. The Titans routinely play in front of Kevin Hart-sized crowds, and not even Gary Ablett Jr has helped the AFL take a solid grip of the glitter strip.
The Titans have a history of holding Ls with big-name recruits. The famous Cherry-Evans backflip is still a salty memory, Jamal Idris didn’t live up to the hype, and let’s not forget the shell of Dave Taylor plodding around Robina Stadium.
If Hayne can deliver even a fraction of what he’s capable of, the Titans could march further in the finals than ever before. All that OTT media coverage has turned the biggest name in the NRL into the biggest name in Australian sport, and he’s playing right there on the Gold Coast. If this doesn’t get people through the stands, the NRL can start manufacturing Perth Titans merch.
In reality, the likelihood that Hayne can come back after a season away and dominate instantly is low. But regardless of what happens from here, this is the good news story the NRL needed. The biggest story of the 2016 NRL season is a positive one. That’s what matters.