Hayne to play and tipped to stay
Jarryd Hayne looks set to make his return from an ankle injury against the Sharks on Saturday night and Gold Coast Titans coach Neil Henry gave the strongest hint yet that his time at the club will extend into the 2018 season.
The Titans had the unusual luxury at Friday's captain's run of having all 21 players named on Tuesday on the field and training, with Hayne, Kevin Proctor and Konrad Hurrell all moving freely after participating in the majority of Wednesday's session.
Co-captain Ryan James missed Wednesday's session with an ankle injury but has declared himself a certain starter leaving Henry to ponder how to manage the make-up of a team that desperately needs to register their second win of the season before their finals prospects vanish completely.
Since being handed the fullback role three weeks ago Tyrone Roberts has been one of the Titans' best but could be pushed to the bench upon Hayne's return which could also in turn mean that Karl Lawton misses out on the final 17 altogether.
Chris Grevsmuhl trained with the main group on Friday but could be rested after suffering a groin injury last week with Dan Sarginson also tipped to move from right centre to the left wing, allowing Hurrell to assume his regular place on the right and Tyronne Roberts-Davis to drop back to the under-20s.
As is the case in everything he does, Hayne remains the major focus but Henry said any expectation on what he can deliver after five weeks out needs to be measured.
"No one has patience. Everyone expects Jarryd to come out and do something special and be the player of the match," Henry said.
"He had a couple of good games for us last year but he hasn't been able to settle into any rhythm.
"Even his pre-season was interrupted through injury, came back and in the second game hurt his ankle.
"He's heavily scrutinised every time he's playing a game of footy and he's got high expectations.
"He certainly can do something special on the field but if he gets through a game, we have a solid performance and we can get a win down there that'd be great for the club.
"He's still got that ability to carry the ball and throw the ball. He's got great hands, he's good in the air and he's also got a kicking game as well. He does have the skill set to worry sides with his attack and he's a big body so defending in the line he can make those tackles.
"He's got all the tools there, he's just got to get back in and get some continuity in his footy."
In addition to the expectation of his return from injury much of the discussion around Hayne at present is whether or not he will take up an option in his favour to stay at the Titans for a further season beyond 2017, a decision Henry believes is looking more likely of being in the affirmative.
We're hopeful that Jarryd stays. It's a crucial spot, fullback, and that contract's sitting there.
"We're hopeful that Jarryd stays. It's a crucial spot, fullback, and that contract's sitting there," Henry said.
"We don't have to negotiate anything, it's up to him whether he takes it up. It's budgeted for and that's what happens.
"It's like Konrad Hurrell, if he's playing good footy, they attract people to watch them, those sorts of players, and that's good for our fans, good for our marketing team and good for our sponsorship.
"If he decides not to – which I think is unlikely, I think he'll stay – then we'll have to go to Plan B and look at our outside backs and see what happens there."
Three times this season already the Titans have led inside the final 10 minutes of games but were unable to close them out and James believes the inclusion of three international representatives is a major boost to the team's confidence up against the defending premiers.
"Just between those three there's close to 400 games of experience so just having that let alone who they are and what they bring to the team is going to add to everyone's dynamic in the team," James said.
"When you think they've been part of those big games it's good that 'Kevvie' [Proctor] in particular is just inside the halfback and can talk to him a bit more.
"Having his cool head – he's played with two of the best halves in the game for a while – so I think he can help them out a lot."