The Hayne lesson all players should heed
Last week was incredibly stressful for Jarryd Hayne.
On Monday he was having lunch with childhood friend Tim Mannah pleading with him as to the whereabouts of a contract that would see him return to the Parramatta Eels.
As this was taking place his manager, Wayne Beavis, was in discussions with the Gold Coast Titans and when they escalated to the point where Hayne's presence was required, he walked into Sydney Airport and bought a one-way ticket to the Gold Coast.
By 10pm on Tuesday night he had signed and 12 hours later was front and centre at a packed press event flanked by coach Neil Henry, Titans CEO Graham Annesley, chair Rebecca Frizelle and representatives from sponsor Phone A Flight.
For 20 minutes he answered questions and spoke open and honestly about his disappointment at not being able to return to Parramatta and then backed up again on Thursday and did it all again prior to his first training session with his new team.
On Sunday, he was interviewed by Fox Sports on the field post-game, again by Fox and Channel Nine in separate interviews in the sheds before giving the press pack six minutes of considered and polished comment about his return to the NRL.
He didn't shy away from potential controversy surrounding an accidental bump with a match official and when the majority of news organisations ran with that angle the next day the sun still rose in the morning.
He's been given the week off media commitments this week – until game-day at least – but his conduct should serve as a lesson to the rest of the NRL of how players can shape the message by fronting up rather than hiding behind a cloak of paranoia.
Every week in the NRL there are players who are "protected" from the media if there is a storyline in the offing, only to be brought forward a week or two later when their newsworthiness has dwindled to the point of non-existence.
Former Queensland and Kangaroos legend Brent Tate writes in Big League this week that alongside Johnathan Thurston, Jarryd Hayne is the most marketable player in the game. And he's played one game in almost two years.
Thurston used the mammoth Origin arena to speak about the situation in Aurukun, Cameron Smith is perhaps the most giving interviewee currently in the game, Paul Gallen has realised that speaking his mind is actually good for the game and Michael Ennis may be the most in-demand media talent of players retiring at the end of this season.
I admired the way Ben Hunt handled any supposed grand final demons at the start of the season with a Big League column and piece on The Footy Show, Greg Bird doesn't shy away from making a statement and Shaun Johnson is an articulate and polite superstar but they are the exception rather than the rule.
Many will point to Hayne's experience with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL in America and the vastly different access that is afforded to sports reporters in the US but before he left the now 28-year-old held himself in such a manner that made him stand out from the crowd.
He was confident in what he was saying – no matter how many cameras and microphones were being thrust in his face – but never to the point where he could be viewed as trying to rise above his station.
He spoke of the need for players to be protected when it came to the use of their likeness in a promotional sense in a way that was all encompassing and not merely for 'Team Jarryd' and in all my experiences he has treated the media with respect.
There are very few players currently in our game with the magnetism and marketability of Hayne but it is a position he has cultivated by virtue of his conduct.
He rarely speaks in clichés, he says exactly what he's thinking and neither the teams he plays for or his bank balance have ever suffered because of it.
If I could urge other players to take one lesson from Hayne it is this: Own the message.
Speak to the media as you would speak to a fan because they won't begin to cheer for you unless they know in at least some small way who you are.
We often see players as they pass the age of 30 come to the realisation that their profile when they finish playing will dictate the shape their life takes after football and overnight become media darlings.
The smartest thing Jarryd Hayne has ever done is to embrace that opportunity and all that comes with it while still at the absolute peak of his powers.