Jarryd Hayne says he is no superman, but the Parramatta fullback is on course to surpass the heroics of his incredible 2009 season.
His grand-final teammate Eric Grothe says the Eels star is playing better football than when he led Parramatta to the premiership decider five years ago.
Questions over whether the Hayne Plane would ever soar at such heights have haunted the No.1 since he produced the type of football that left many wondering if they had just witnessed a once-in-a-generation phenomenon.
In just 17 games this season he has scored more tries (17) and produced more line-break assists (8) than he did in 26 games during Parramatta’s run to the 2009 grand final.
And Grothe says the maturity and leadership he has added to his game has made him an even more potent weapon than 2009.
“In ’09 I don’t think he was as mature considering his experience, but now he’s really taken on the leadership as well as his freakish brand of footy,” Grothe said on Monday.
“It all happened very quickly in ’09, and it went from really bad to really good very quickly. But this year Haynesy has been good all the way through, and so have Parramatta – that’s why he’s a better player today than he he was back then.
“He’s still relatively young , so it will be interesting to see how much better he gets. I think ’09 was one of the worst and best things that happened to him. Everything he did after that has been compared to that one year. That’s unfair because the whole team hasn’t gone well, and they’ve been expecting him to produce magic when they haven’t helped. He’s also a good organiser of his troops these days.”
While the Eels have struggled since that grand-final loss against Melbourne, Hayne insists the hype surrounding his performances did not get the better of him.
“I had my head screwed on right,” Hayne said last month.
“I knew why we were winning and for me it will always be about the team. The blokes that I played with were playing out of their skin and I was just the bloke that finished it off. I’ve always said when Parra is going well and when I’m going well it’s because of the blokes up front. You see that with any club. When you’ve got forwards who want to run hard and tackle hard, I do my thing on top of that. But if they don’t want to do that, I’m no superman.”
The common denominator in both of Hayne’s best seasons in the NRL is Daniel Anderson, the former Eels coach who rejoined the coaching staff as the club’s football manager this season.
“I always liked Daniel as a coach,” Hayne said.
“At the time the board didn’t like him, so that was disappointing. I found him a really good coach. He’s just straight up and honest. He’s a bit old school, too, so he’ll tell you how it is. Some blokes don’t like that. Especially the generation these days, you’ve got to cuddle them and rock them into first grade and you can’t be too harsh on them.
“For me, I thought he was great, although he doesn’t have anything to do with the stuff on the field these days. With Brad Arthur, I think Brad is the most ideal coach for the club at the moment. He’s a great coach. We couldn’t have got anyone better.”
Hayne’s former teammate Matt Keating, who came off the bench in the grand final, says Hayne is almost back to the form of 2009.
“He’s not far off,” Keating said. “I think he feels like it’s his team now. As soon as he got the co-captains role, you could see another person coming out in him. It’s taken him 12 to 18 months to finally realise what that confidence and responsibility can do for him, and that he can get back to where he was [in 2009].”
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