Tedesco ready for Hayne Origin challenge
Wests Tigers and NSW fullback James Tedesco says it's great to see Blues legend Jarryd Hayne back in the NRL, and is ready to try and lift his game even further to try and retain the sky blue No.1 jersey for next year's Origin series.
Hayne, the Blues' 2014 series-winning fullback, this week formalised a return after stints in the NFL and rugby sevens to link with the Titans, and Tedesco's 10th-placed Tigers are among the clubs most at threat from a stronger Gold Coast as seven clubs scrap for the final two 2016 finals spots.
Despite that, Tigers players were delighted to see the superstar return with skipper Aaron Woods – a teammate of Hayne's in that 2014 series – also welcoming him back with open arms.
''It's exciting to see 'Haynesy' back. It was exciting to watch him when he was playing for Parra, now he's back in the game so it's good of the game having these sort of players come back," Tedesco said.
"It will be a test for me to keep that Origin jersey and keep it off him because when he was there he made it his own. He got a series win for the Blues. It will be a good test for me to lift my game up to his level."
Tedesco believes he has grown his own game in the almost two seasons since Hayne left and has even looked at parts of Hayne's game he could integrate into his own performances.
"In 2015 I played every game and every minute and that's when I started getting comfortable and confident in the No.1 jersey," Tedesco said.
"I'm probably a different player since he left, and definitely feel like I've improved, and I have to keep improving to keep that [Blues] jersey."
Tedesco said Hayne's running game was his main threat but that his ability to create tries for teammates was another key to his success.
"He was a big sort of guy, he used his running game as his main weapon. He was developing a great passing game down the short side, and he'd set up tries non-stop. You could see he had worked on that part of his game," Tedesco said.
"He has all the good attributes for a good fullback. I definitely looked at parts of his game I could use, and stuff I could work on myself."
Woods was also delighted to see Hayne back in the NRL rather than going to another code.
"I'm very excited actually and he's a good friend of mine as well," Woods said.
"It's a good acquisition for the NRL and I'm glad to see him back playing NRL because it was the game [he was] brought up on. It's good to see him back and not playing union so I'm really excited to see him play."
Of Hayne's possible threat to Tedesco's Origin jersey, Woods didn't miss a beat in announcing: "He'll play centre and Teddy will play fullback."
Woods did welcome the extra depth now available for NSW with emerging Manly star Tom Trbojevic also likely to come into contention for the 2017 series.
"It's good that everyone is fighting for positions, especially in the outside backs. And young Tom Trbojevic is going really well as well," Woods said.
"It's a really good headache for [Blues coach] Laurie [Daley], but we have to wait until the time comes. They could be injured, they could be out of form."
Both players were completely unfazed by Hayne's late-season addition to rivals Gold Coast – who face the Tigers at Campbelltown in two rounds.
"It will be a great challenge for me personally and our team. The Titans are in a fight with us to make the eight, and it will be a big game for us to win, and they'll be boosted if Hayne does play," Tedesco said.
"I'll look forward to that challenge versing him. Titans have been playing well and now they've got Jarryd Hayne to boost their team. I think we play them and Warriors who are logged up against us so we need to win those games if we're going to make the eight."