Eels coach: Jarryd Hayne has actually been killing it
JARRYD Hayne has been a top-five performer in power drills and ball work during his Eels comeback pre-season, coach Brad Arthur says, adding class to the team and staking a claim to stay beyond his one-year contract.
Hayne's fitness has copped major scrutiny since returning to Parramatta, with fans left stunned by images of him lagging dead last in time trial runs - trailing even coach Brad Arthur and his young son.
Arthur however pointed out that his teenage son had beaten half the squad in pre-season runs. He also said Hayne was not naturally suited to endurance work but was excelling in training more befitting his body type and skills.
"He's been great. People like to make opinions about players from the outside looking in but it's not unless you're in the inner sanctum that you know exactly what's going on," Arthur said.
"While it's been reported that his fitness levels aren't great, they're better than I've seen from him but he's not the sort of person that's going to win a 5km sand beach trial or 2km time sprints. But the stuff where we've got the football in hand and the more powerful explosive type training he's been in our best five every time.
"He's added a real class factor to our team - but the other part of it is, he's not our team. He's just Jarryd Hayne and he's got a role to play in the team like everyone else and we're not reliant upon him and he probably is enjoying that role as well, that he can just come and play his football.
"You know he's going to have a bit of pressure on him but it's not that we need him to do this or do that for us to be competitive."
Hayne will play his comeback game for Parra on Saturday vs the Knights in Maitland.
Arthur said the opportunity was there for Hayne to extend his stay, having signed a one-season deal worth about $500,000, if things went well this year.
"I don't know what's going to happen from there but it was always discussed with Jarryd that, 2018, come back, prove himself, earn another contract moving forward with the club," Arthur said.
"Long-term, I'm sure we want and he wants to finish his NRL career at our club. But at the moment, he's got to worry about this weekend, then the next weekend and making sure he's consistent for us week-in, week-out."
Hayne is pencilled in as a centre at this stage. Highlighting the difficulty he'll face in getting a shot at his preferred fullback position, Arthur named No.1 contenders Clint Gutherson and Bevan French as standout performers from pre-season.
"We've got some really good trainers at the moment. Clint Gutherson, who I've got a lot of respect for and time for, he's been training the house down for a bloke who's got his second knee reconstruction. His attitude has still been first-class moving forward," Arthur said.
"But Bevan French, he's just gone to another level this year I think with his training and his leadership.
"He's put on a bit of size and strength, upper body, and he's at least starting to have a voice. So I'm expecting big things from Bevan this year."