Hayne's eyes on finals prize
How good is Parramatta fullback Jarryd Hayne? You don't have to travel far for an answer if his coach Brad Arthur and opposition captain Wade Graham are good judges following the Eels' Hayne-inspired 32-12 win over the Sharks on Saturday afternoon.
While Graham pointed out that Hayne tipped the game on its head after contributing two tries and 280 metres to the Eels win, including a length of field effort to put an end to a Sharks revival, Hayne's coach Arthur was blunt in assessing side's likely fortunes had Hayne not been on the field.
"If you want me to be honest we wouldn't have won without him today," Arthur told reporters after the game.
Hayne himself is already looking ahead to the finals.
One way or the other the 26-year-old wants finals football and after finishing the past two seasons in last place on the competition ladder, who can blame him?
"That's what we're aiming for and that's what where we want to be," Hayne told NRL.com.
Before this weekend the Eels were one of the six teams stuck in the middle of the ladder on 22 points. Their scrappy win over the Sharks gives them a boost ahead of a relatively friendly run home towards a hopeful finals berth.
While they are faced with difficult home games against the Sea Eagles and Bulldogs, the Eels are set to face wooden spoon favourites the Canberra Raiders twice as well as cellar-dwellers the Newcastle Knights and the struggling Titans – a situation that Hayne labels a "catch-22".
"We're not playing the top four teams but at the same time we have to prepare for finals football so for us it is about our mentality and attitude because we can't throw away the footy or throw away the possession like we did against the Sharks and expect to get away or win the fight at the end of the year," Hayne said.
"It is something we need to start preparing for from the get-go from here on in. We were good in patches but I kind of spoke about setting the bar high and getting ready for that kind of football, finals football, so we just can't rock up in September and think that we can just playing good then. It starts now and it starts by playing well in our next five games."
While the Eels resurgence under Arthur has seen Hayne grow to levels not seen since his Dally M Medal-winning run in 2009, the NSW and Australian representative couldn't help but compliment the efforts of relatively new halves combination Corey Norman and Chris Sandow.
With the Eels spine growing in stature as the season progresses, Hayne believes their current success has come off the back of hard work with the Eels now on a two game winning streak.
"[Our combination] is something that we have worked a lot on and while they are a new halves combination and collectively we are a new spine that I think are flowing really well," Hayne said.
"In saying that there is still a lot to improve on and the next five weeks is where we need to work hard and find that balance."
There are plenty of reasons for Eels fans to be excited if Hayne has anything to do with it and with Norman and Sandow flying right next to him, anything is surely possible for Parramatta in 2014.