Hayne Returns, But This Time On Eels' Terms
Jarryd Hayne is back. Back where it all began after walking into the Parramatta Eels offices on Friday morning to again commit himself to his beloved blue and gold.
Think what you like about the train-wreck that was his 16 months on the Gold Coast, but there's something admirable in his not so commendable exit from the Titans.
For all his shortcomings, not many would walk the path Hayne has chosen.
He has made a salary sacrifice in the vicinity of $700,000 and will most likely play in his non-preferred position of centre. That positional move at the Titans was ironically the trigger for his frustrations and fall from grace on the Gold Coast.
The circus that has followed his every move since his return from his code-hopping adventure could have all been avoided had he have chosen to return to the Eels in the first place.
But once again, would many have chosen to ignore the extra $800,000 on offer at the Titans, especially after he sacrificed close to a million dollars chasing his NFL dream in the United States?
Hayne made a decision based on money. He has lived with that regret ever since.
It didn't take long for him to realise either, and he began agitating to return to Parramatta within months of joining the Titans. He's finally convinced them that he's worth the drama that always follows.
This decision isn't about money. It's about filling a hole that has only widened in his three years away from the club. It's about doing what is right, after doing what has felt so wrong.
Hayne knows his name is no longer held in the same regard it once was among Eels fans. He wants to change that perception.
They understood when he left to play in the NFL, but they turned on him when he broke his promise to return to the Eels. The fans haven't forgotten and nor should they. It's now up to Hayne to win back that trust.
Watching the Eels play finals football last year would have eaten away at him. He started to realise that he should be there.
Hayne wants to finish off what he almost achieved in 2009 and help deliver the club its first premiership in three decades.
The 29-year-old has been told in no uncertain terms that things will not be the way he remembered them. That this was no longer Hayne's kingdom to rule.
Brad Arthur would have enforced that things have changed since Hayne's departure, and if he didn't want to buy into that his talents weren't required.
The first test was the money on the table. The Hayne of old would have laughed at the $500,000 offer the Eels tendered.
And a one-year deal? Given his performances in 2017, the Eels are justified in offering just a short-term contract. It could backfire and if he returns to his brilliant best they will need to double his salary in 2019, but it also provides Hayne with the opportunity to prove he is again worthy of elite status money.
The Hayne of old would have also demanded the No.1 jersey. He's been told the development of Clint Gutherson and Bevan French are the priorities and he will fit in around them.
Hayne's reputation has been so heavily tarnished since coming back that many now question his motives.
There's no doubt he's left the Titans in a far worse position than when he arrived. Few up north will forgive what he did to the coaching career of Neil Henry, but what damage would he have caused if he spent another 12 months in a place he didn't want to be?
Unlike his original decision to link with the Titans, you can't question his motives for coming home. It's a decision made from the heart.
But make no mistake about it, this is Hayne's last chance to regain the respect that saw him dubbed a national hero for what he achieved at the San Francisco 49ers.
He has departed on holidays and isn't due at training until January. It's then he will begin his quest to earn the respect of the playing group, win the trust of his coach and convince the game's most one-eyed fan base that he has changed.
Arthur has put his reputation on the line by signing Hayne at a time when many expect the Eels to become genuine premiership contenders.
It's only December, but the events that have unfolded on the opening day of the summer will define what happens on the last Sunday of the next season. Masterstroke or the beginning of the end? That's up to Hayne.
This article first appeared on NRL.com