Hayne departs as an Eels icon

Jarryd Hayne will leave the Eels as a club icon, and could yet return to become one of the blue and gold's greatest of all time.

That's not a hyperbole-prone, headline grabbing journo shooting blindly from the hip. It's the opinion of bona fide Parramatta legend Brett Kenny, a man who's been on hand for 265 games for the club and all four of its premierships.

Kenny hadn't heard the news of Hayne's decision to walk away from the 13-man code and a million-dollar contract extension for unemployment and a punt at the NFL when NRL.com called on Wednesday morning. 

We can't print the former five-eighth's response when told the 26-year-old with the rugby league world at his feet was flying halfway round the globe to "try to make a train-on team...kinda like their second-tier players." 

From the heights of a 2006 rookie year when he scored 17 tries in his first 16 games, to the follow-up act two years on that set the benchmark for individual performance in the modern era, to the pressure and expectation that has accompanied his every move since, Hayne has been always been numero uno when it comes to Parramatta. 

A source of delight, frustration, amazement and bewilderment all rolled into one for the blue and gold faithful and the wider rugby league community alike across the course of 176 NRL appearances, 20 Origins and 16 Tests for Australia and Fiji.

"When you look at his overall career in rugby league and at Parramatta, Hayne came into the top grade from a background where he didn't have everything or a lot of things that other kids had," Kenny recalls of the kid from Minto who just wanted to buy his mum a house. 

"He'd struggled a bit in life and landed on the verge of becoming a superstar in league, and then went through that usual stage that a lot of people do, where you get a bit ahead of yourself. 

"He got himself into a bit of strife at times, the shooting incident at Kings Cross and all that sort of stuff, and he's gone from there, to become for modern day rugby league and its supporters, a bit of an icon at Parramatta.

"He's going to be sorely missed; he's going to be remembered as one of the great players and as an inspiration to a lot people."

Over the course of this season Hayne did the impossible. He reproduced the same ooey-gooey, oh-so chewy, scarcely believable vein of form that bagged him his first Dally M medal in 2009. Earned himself a second gong as the game's best, alongside Johnathan Thurston, for his troubles.

He also dragged Parramatta up from the depths of the NRL ocean to within a bee's appendage of a long awaited finals appearance. Performed the same near-miracle in the Origin cauldron, bringing to a halt eight years of Queensland dominance and XXXX victory sips with one of the finest displays seen in a sky blue jumper.

The Jarryd Hayne vintage of 2014 has been the stuff of legend. Which is why on one hand it's so hard to watch him go.

"I can't blame him for taking his opportunity... but the way he was playing this year, it felt like he was going able to continue and he could've gone on to become one of the greats of the club." Kenny told NRL.com.

"He's a huge loss for the Eels, not just on the field, but I think he's matured a lot and become a great asset for the club off the field as well. He's been good for the younger and less experienced players they've got there and for rugby league in general; it's like losing a Greg Inglis or a Billy Slater."

Hayne has allowed himself 12 months to chase his American dream. If he doesn't earn an NFL contract by the time their 2015-16 season rolls round, he's likely to be back in time for ours to kick off in February 2016. 

Given he's already said he won't be sighted in anything other than blue and gold should he return to the NRL, Kenny believes there's still time for a second crack from Hayne, one which could confirm his standing alongside names like Sterling, Price, Cronin and Hindmarsh. 

"Guys from 2009 were ringing me then asking if he'd be the greatest ever to play for the club, and I said 'it's a bit early, that's a big statement.'

"There's been a lot of great players through the club, and now, with the season he's just had, well he's well on the way to being up there.

"And it remains to be seen how long he's going to be away for, he may be back a lot quicker than you think. He might be back playing at that freakish level soon enough and be one of the greats."