'Hayne Plane' In Queensland's Sights
The last time Jarryd Hayne graced the State of Origin arena he was man of the series in a New South Wales victory, and Queensland captain Cameron Smith knows much has changed in the past three years.
Hayne's return to the Blues has been trumpeted south of the border as the return of a prodigal son who after a season in San Francisco is now ready to reclaim his place as the Blues' most influential player on the game's greatest stage.
In 2009 he was named New South Wales' player of the series on the wing – on the wing! – and then in 2014 after eight years of interstate torture he was named man of the match as the Blues set up a long-awaited series win with a 12-8 victory in Game One at Suncorp Stadium.
But that was three years ago and Smith and his Maroons are hatching a plan to show that Hayne is not the player he once was and that he is not the player to lead a Blues revival.
Since leaving the NRL at the end of the 2014 season Hayne has played 12 first grade games of rugby league, won five of them and played just three in the centres, a position he has played just once for New South Wales previously six years ago and the Maroons are going to find out whether he's still up for it.
"He was fantastic in the three matches that he might have played in that position for [the Kangaroos in the 2013 World Cup] but a lot's changed since then," Smith said with suggestive intent.
"He went overseas and played a different game and came back and I think he's only played the three or four matches at centre leading into this Origin so we might be going down that edge a bit."
Justin O'Neill is the Queenslander tasked with keeping the 'Hayne Plane' grounded on Wednesday night and he has been spending the week mining his centre partner Will Chambers for details on how to achieve it.
Chambers ran riot on Hayne when the Storm fell to the Titans in Round 10 and O'Neill is hoping for just as much success.
"We don't have so much footage of how he plays in the centres so it's going to be hard to see common traits on how he defends and whatever," O'Neill said.
"We can look at some previous games he's played at centre. I know Chambers had some success on that edge against the Titans with Hayne so I can go to Will for a few tips.
"There may be some errors there we can look to exploit and expose."
Like Anthony Milford's Origin debut, how Hayne fares will be a major talking point both during and after the series opener.
For all the doubts regarding his ability to handle the demands of State of Origin with such a limited build up is the knowledge that the 29-year-old has a way of rising to the greatest challenges thrown his way.
When he was thrust into the centres midway through the 2013 World Cup he responded by scoring seven tries in three games for the Kangaroos and has the ability to make any plans for Queensland to target him backfire spectacularly.
"It's going to be another huge test," O'Neill said. "Last year it was [Michael] Jennings and that was massive for me, coming into the Origin arena and marking up against one of the most agile and speedy of centres.
"It was a big test for me. I definitely wanted to take a grasp of that and challenge myself. I thought I did that so this year will be the same kind of thing.
"Hayne is a great player. He's got speed and is very good under the high ball and attacking the high ball.
"So a lot of things to look out for."
This article first appeared on NRL.com