Parramatta Eels five-eighth Corey Norman believes Jarryd Hayne’s homecoming will reignite a fire that has been missing since the star fullback joined the Gold Coast Titans in 2016.
Speaking from the Eels’ pre-season camp in Alice Springs, Norman backed the club’s decision to sign Hayne and is confident the guidance of coach Brad Arthur will provide the one-time Parramatta poster boy with the ideal environment to rediscover his mojo.
“I got the opportunity to play with him in 2014 and had a great year that year,” Norman told NRL.com after training in the Northern Territory.
“I know he hasn’t had the best 18 months ... but I think he’s coming back here to really get a bit of credibility back. He’s only on a one-year deal and he did take a big pay cut.
“We all know what Haynesy can do when his head is right. I think that’ll be Brad’s job to get his head right. We’ll just have to worry about us and no doubt Brad will get Haynesy ready to play.”
In Norman’s only season with Hayne in 2014, the former Eels captain went on to win the Dally M Medal alongside North Queensland Cowboys star Johnathan Thurston despite Parra failing to make the finals.
A lot has changed at the Eels since his departure at the end of that season, returning to a team that will no longer solely depend on him for victories.
“I think Haynesy tends to switch on when he knows his team is going well and he doesn’t have to do everything,” Norman said.
“It takes a lot more pressure off him. We have a side here that’s very well balanced. It ain’t all about Jarryd Hayne [like] the previous years. We have a very good balance in this team.
“He’s got no pressure to come back and carry a team for a full season. He’s just got to worry about what he needs to do and how he’s going to get right each week. I think he’ll do that.”
Hayne will return home with a point to prove in 2018 and will have to do so to win back over a supporter group that is reluctant to forgive and forget the fact he chose the Titans over the Eels when he returned to the sport 18 months ago.
The 29-year-old has always kept the club close to his heart and didn’t take the field against Parramatta during his time at the Titans.
“He had the opportunity to play against us last year and he said he will never play against Parra,” Norman said.
“He does have a soft spot for Parra. He’s back now. Let’s see what he brings. Sometimes you just have to give him the ball and let him do his thing.
“Other times he plays within our structures and that sometimes opens up plays for him when he doesn’t have to do much and his speed and power does the rest. I haven’t played alongside Jarryd for four years now but no doubt when he gets back it will be exciting.”
Hayne, rightly or wrongly, copped the brunt of everything that went wrong at the Titans last season, including the demise of coach Neil Henry.
While Norman admitted it was hard to watch his friend endure his struggles, only Hayne could have changed his fortunes.
“That was up to Jarryd. It’s only him who could have turned things around,” Norman said.
“It wasn’t the best year for him and as a mate you don’t want see your mates go through that. But like I said, he had an option to play good football or what not. Sometimes it’s hard when your head’s not right but no doubt he will turn it around this year.”