Hayne Compares Elgey With Andrew Johns
He has seen his skills first-hand on only a couple of occasions but Jarryd Hayne believes Titans teammate Kane Elgey has a passing game to rival that of rugby league great Andrew Johns.
After breaking their finals drought in 2016 the Titans will commence their preparations for the 2017 season at their new base at Parkwood International from Thursday with Hayne's combination with young halves Elgey and Ashley Taylor seen as crucial to their chances of faring even better next year.
With Kiwi back-rower Kevin Proctor the latest high-profile signing to commit long-term to Gold Coast the Titans have assembled a roster worthy of being considered a genuine title threat in their 10th year in the NRL.
Hayne knows that the responsibility of team cohesion will rest with the spine and why his combination with likely starting halves Elgey and Taylor and hooker Nathan Peats is so important.
Elgey missed the entire 2016 season when he ruptured his ACL on the first day of training back in January but got back on the field in time to run an opposed session against the team to play the Broncos in the first week of the finals.
Players have expressed privately how close they believe Elgey came to playing that final at Suncorp Stadium while Hayne was simply struck by the 22-year-old's rare ability with ball in hand.
"He practised against us when we were playing Brisbane in that first final and he's got an unbelievable long ball, probably one of the best long balls I've ever seen," Hayne said.
"Timmy Smith and 'Joey' Johns had some great long balls that really caught your eye but the way Kane can throw it from left to right is something I've never seen before.
"Obviously we've got Ash there as well but looking forward to seeing Kane come back and having a big pre-season under his belt.
"I'm sure he was excited to get back out there with the boys and sling it long and he looked great out there. It's going to be exciting to see him run around."
To make such an impression in your first couple of field sessions back after serious injury will obviously put Elgey in the right frame of mind for the start of pre-season and he is confident that the new-look spine will come together in the coming months.
Only three players from Elgey's last game for the Titans in Round 26, 2015 are still at the club and he is excited to build on the momentum generated by the 2016 squad.
"I'm not nervous, I'm definitely excited to get back into routine," Elgey said.
"I felt like I was on the outside a bit this year. It's been tough, it's been very tough this year but in saying that the boys went so well and it was good to see the Gold Coast getting behind them.
"The next five weeks is going to be a big test for me, getting back in there but I reckon it will be fine.
"We'll have a fair bit of time together and if we're all there at the Auckland Nines that will be a good start and kick-start the year.
"It's a new roster from when I was playing, it's a completely different team.
"I've just got to try and get in there, play Auckland Nines hopefully and trial games and if I'm there in Round 1 we'll see."
The brand new facilities at Parkwood will not be officially opened until November 29 when NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and ARLC Chairman John Grant will be in attendance but players will begin training on a field on Thursday designed to replicate the playing surface at Cbus Super Stadium.
New recruits Kevin Proctor and Dan Sarginson will not join the squad until their commitments in the Four Nations have been completed with former Bronco Jarrod Wallace the most high-profile signing expected to front up for day one of pre-season.
With a forward pack now capable of rivalling any in the competition, Hayne says that it is up to the playmakers to form combinations over the next three months that put them in the best possible position come Round 1.
"A full pre-season is huge, not only physically to get the body in shape but also to play alongside Ash and Kane and Tyrone and 'Peatsy' being the halves combo and the spine," said Hayne, who will be completing his first full NRL pre-season in four years.
"That's really important and having us all back on the field for a good three months solid is going to be huge for us.
"The biggest thing for me is being around the spine and for us to really get going and get rolling.
"We are expecting a big year next year. We've got a lot going for us potentially but now it's about putting the runs on the board and that's going to start on Thursday with our first session back.
"Pre-season is never fun and no one really enjoys it but we know we need it. It's going to be a good couple of months ahead.
"Our forward pack is going to be up there with the best of them and there will be a lot of pressure on us outside backs. As long as we work as a unit, gel real well in the pre-season then the potential that we've got there is really good."
This article first appeared on NRL.com