How fatherhood has changed Hayne
Gold Coast captain-in-waiting Ryan James believes that the birth of a daughter at Christmas has brought out a different side to superstar fullback Jarryd Hayne and that the Titans will reap the benefits in 2017.
James travelled with the rest of the Titans squad to Auckland on Thursday ahead of this weekend's Downer NRL Auckland Nines tournament but will be relegated to 19th man and not take any part in the frenetic on-field action.
Replacing James as skipper will be Hayne and halfback Kane Elgey, a major sign that the club's marquee player has won the respect of the playing group with an improved attitude to pre-season training.
There were concerns in the early stages of pre-season that Hayne was not hitting his personal targets and was in danger of being left out of the leadership group but leading the team out on to Eden Park for the first match of the tournament is evidence of just how far he has come.
Hayne's partner Amellia Bonnici gave birth to a baby girl on December 22 and James – very proud father himself of son Carter – has no doubt that it has had an influence on Hayne's contribution to the team.
"It's definitely been good for him," James told NRL.com.
"He's come in to training tired a couple of times, with the baby and staying up a bit late, but I think it's probably the best thing to happen to him.
"He's got a bit of responsibility now and he's really turned things around.
"He's always going to be a natural leader being Jarryd Hayne and doing what he does and he's definitely stood up and starting to train a lot better.
"Everyone has seen the improvements in him and he's starting to get a lot better in everything he does."
Like Johnathan Thurston, with whom he shared the 2014 Dally M Medal, Hayne is making his first appearance at the Auckland Nines and with his unique and rare skill set should provide a number of highlights over the course of the weekend.
Arguably the most dangerous broken-field runner when at his best in the 13-man game, Hayne should thrive on the open spaces afforded at the Nines and produce some skill that even has his teammates shaking their heads.
"'Haynesy' will be good in this tournament," James said.
"He's played all different sports and something like this – open field – he can do anything. It will be good for him to go out there and have a bit of open field and play his own style of footy.
"Anything when it comes to skills you just look at him and wonder how the hell he does it. You scratch your head wondering.
"We need that a hundred per cent of the time."
And with the Telstra Premiership now less than four weeks away, James says that the combinations Hayne is forming with halves Kane Elgey and Ashley Taylor will create plenty of try-scoring opportunities for the Titans in 2017.
"When he's running off the back of Ash and Kane he's looking real good," said James, who will represent the Indigenous All Stars next week in Newcastle.
"He draws in one or two or three players and can just create that extra man on the edge and he's quick enough to jump a short side and create an extra player anyway.
"Haynesy is always going to draw those players around him ad it's good for us to have."