Titans vow to embrace Hayne spotlight
The rugby league spotlight has never shined so brightly on the Gold Coast for deeds on the field but the surprise packets of 2016 say their rise up the ladder has them ready for the extra attention now coming their way.
For the second day in succession a media throng converged for a Jarryd Hayne press conference with one television news crew taking to the skies over Cbus Super Stadium in order to get a glimpse of Hayne in his first run with his new team.
An expected crowd of more than 20,000 could very well now swell to capacity as it becomes more and more likely that Hayne will make his return from the bench against the Warriors this Sunday, 701 days since his last game of rugby league for the Eels.
Written off at the start of the season, the Titans' fairytale run towards a long-awaited finals berth has already captured the imagination of many league fans, with Monday night's draw against the Sharks drawing the third biggest Monday night crowd of the year as well as being the most watched game on the NRL Digital Pass this season and the highest rating Titans game on Fox Sports in the club's history.
With wins have come attention and expectation but Hayne's former Eels teammate Zeb Taia knows it has gone to a whole new level with their latest signing.
"Of course, it's changed massively, he's a massive signing for us and he's going to create a lot of fanfare off the field as well," Taia told NRL.com.
"We've created a bit of attention to ourselves with that big game on Monday night and we need to be consistent week in and week out and play like that if you want to play in the finals.
"The boys know they're up for a massive challenge this week coming up against a good Warriors team. There are a lot of Kiwi supporters on the Gold Coast and he's going to add more bums on seats for this game as well.
"There is a lot of attention on us now and I think the boys are up for it. To rise to that occasion and if we want to be there towards the end these are the games we need to win."
Wrecking ball Agnatius Paasi only learned of his new teammate's arrival when it was officially announced on Wednesday morning and is excited by what Hayne will bring to the team, aside from the extra media attention.
"It was different to way back in pre-season with no cameras and no nothing at all," said Paasi, who will line up against the club where he won an under-20s title and made his NRL debut on Sunday.
"As we were winning as a group there were more cameras and more reporters coming out but especially with Jarryd Hayne coming in.
"It was a bit of a surprise. We didn't know until 10 o'clock when they announced it but he'll be a good player for our attack.
"He's a strong fullback and brings out the ball with 110 per cent so he'll be good if he plays this week and give us more power in attack."
Taia played in a Premier League premiership team with Hayne in 2005 and was in the Eels' NRL team when he made his NRL debut in Round 11, 2006.
When he got wind of the possibility of the 28-year-old superstar possibly joining the Titans' ranks he sent him a message on Facebook and then caught up for dinner on Wednesday night as the reality of the situation sunk in.
"It caught me by surprise heaps," Taia said.
"There were some whispers four or five weeks ago that he was coming back to the NRL and if there was any club he could come to it would probably be the Gold Coast Titans.
"I thought there was no way he would come back to another club.
"He had his reasons and I spoke to him about it last night but it was a bit of a shock to me.
"I was seeing all of it on social media and sent him a text on Facebook and said, 'What's going on, are you really a Titan?' and he said, 'Yeah, I'll see you in the morning.'
"It caught me off guard too and I think it caught a lot of dudes off guard, even probably some of his close mates.
"He's his own person and he makes his own decisions and he knew that there would be a lot of consequences that he'd have to face making tough decisions like this.
"It was probably a bit of a roller-coaster day for him yesterday so just trying to let him know that there are good things going to happen up on the Gold Coast and make him feel welcome."