Dan Walsh, Staff Writer
From the moment Parramatta's 2009 fairytale run ended in heartbreak at the Big NRL Ball, the blue-and-golds have leant too heavily on their superstar custodian.
Too often they have looked to the mercurial 26-year-old and hoped for the switch to flick. That the richer than rich, Dally M-worthy vein of form would run thick yet again, sweeping the Eels up in its wake and delivering the club out of the doldrums and into the promised lands.
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Funny thing is, according to the man of the moment, now that his performances are again scaling the dizzying heights that he reached in 2009, the Eels are relying on him less.
Which, Hayne says, is why the team is fighting for a first finals appearance in six years, rather than avoiding a third wooden spoon in three.
"I've always known how good I am, even when we weren't doing so well," Hayne says.
"If the whole team's not pulling together and working together then it doesn't matter how good any player is, they can't do much.
"This year I am pushing blokes not to get caught up in the hype, not read too many headlines.
"For me it's important to go out of my way and give the forwards raps, and give blokes who aren't in the media that attention and that credit for why I'm playing so well.
"I don't shy away from that, I'm a smart player and I know why I'm playing good."
While Hayne will be expected to produce the usual fireworks out the back this Friday night, the Eels' largely unheralded forwards face a massive battle up-front against a Bulldogs pack that ranks amongst the most feared in the competition.
Parramatta currently sit in ninth spot on the same number of points as their weekend opponents - 26 - but due to a points differential of -68 (a hefty 61 shy of the eighth-placed Dogs at -7), find themselves essentially playing a semi-final four weeks early.
Hayne says the whole scenario has the Eels raring to rip and tear against their blue and white counterparts.
"The Bulldogs test is going to be huge... it's a star-studded forward pack," says Hayne.
"Our forwards aren't the big names of the South Sydneys, Bulldogs and Manlys, so our boys always want to prove a point.
"The boys are up for a big test, they know that and I think [they] get excited too. They don't get seen as a star-studded forward pack and they want to show everyone how good they are."