'Genius' Jarryd Blues' magic ingredient: Elias
There is one man in contention for a Blues jersey this year who coach Laurie Daley simply can't leave out according to Blues legend Ben Elias – 2014 series-winning fullback Jarryd Hayne.
Since leading the Blues to their first series win in eight years, the mercurial Hayne has departed the NRL for a stint in the NFL – earning a top-grade start quicker than any would have imagined – before returning to the NRL via the Titans.
Some eye-catching performances since his club debut late last year have been interspersed with some less convincing ones with a few injuries in between. An impressive two-try effort a fortnight ago was followed by another short-term injury but for Elias, simply putting Hayne on the biggest stage is all he needs.
"One bloke who I love is Jarryd Hayne. He's a superstar," Elias, who won 10 of his 19 Origin appearances, told NRL.com at a Blues' captains' table event this week.
"The last time we won a series was in 2014, go and have a look at the three games – he was out best player in two of the three games.
"He's a superstar, he loves big games, he's a bloke that will be our unsung hero. Trust me, he's just too good of a player not to be on the superstar scene. He loves these big events and Laurie knows that and he'll make a massive difference to our side this year."
Having been one of the Blues' best often from the wing throughout his 20-Origin career while the likes of Anthony Minichiello, Kurt Gidley and Brett Stewart donned the No.1 jersey, Hayne made that spot truly his own in 2014 – before promptly quitting the game at the end of the season.
Having lined up for his past few club games for the Titans at centre, Hayne would be long odds to slot straight into the NSW fullback spot – but Elias says it doesn't matter if he's at wing, fullback, centre or the bench.
"He could player hooker, I don't care, Jarryd Hayne's a genius!" Elias laughed.
"He's one of my favourite players in the game. He played for the 49ers – how you can change to a game you haven't played ever and in one of the biggest sports in the USA, you've got to have some special qualities and he's got all of them."
On the series more broadly, Elias was happy as always to light the fuse on the eve of another interstate series when asked how Queensland would respond to the loss of some senior stars such as Matt Scott, Greg Inglis and possibly Johnathan Thurston.
"Queensland are Queensland. Thurston's going to have a crook shoulder, Cronk's going to have the flu in the week leading up to it – they play these games every year," Elias said.
"We're ready for them this year. We know what they're going to do, we don't have to second guess anymore. We've worked them out, they're predictable. They're going to get embarrassed Game One and Three in front of their own home crowd and we're going to do a number on them and make them look like the second best side."
So, Blues to win Benny?
"This will be a clean sweep. Three-nil."