Jarryd Hayne fronts media at Eels training
Jarryd Hayne means business. Both in his return to the Parramatta Eels and clearing his name amid rape accusations set for a Santa Clara courthouse in April.
When he signed with the Eels just over a month ago, the most common question asked was whether he would be the same player again.
Now there are far more pressing concerns at play, with some wondering if he will ever be the same person again.
Not many would have done what Jarryd Hayne and the Eels orchestrated on the first day of his second coming on Wednesday.
They opened the gates, encouraged media to take footage, and threw him – albeit he was well rehearsed – in front of a large media gathering at the team’s training facility in North Parramatta.
A simple "we have nothing to hide" approach. He wasn’t forced into it either. Quite the contrary, actually. He had to be advised to hold off speaking his mind about the legal battle he faces.
As Hayne "vehemently" denied the allegations, to his left stood his coach.
Brad Arthur, who has put his reputation on the line signing a player others perceived as damaged goods, was blindsided as much as anyone else by the accusations.
He had every right to be disappointed with his superstar recruit for not disclosing the information that has since come to light.
But there he was, standing by his player in a show of support that Hayne will be desperate to repay on the football field.
“That was a tough situation to be put in and I didn’t want him to go in alone,” Arthur told NRL.com.
“I wanted him to know that we always go into bat for our players. I did the same for Jarryd as I would have done for any of our players.”
Hayne has a support network that leaves him far better equipped to deal with this situation than he would have been if he was still at the Gold Coast Titans.
Childhood friends like Tim Mannah and Tony Williams, who trained with Hayne during the off-season to help him prepare for his second stint at the club.
Or perhaps his former Harold Matthews coach turned NRL assistant Joey Grima. It’s the influence of those types of people he sorely missed during his controversial 16 months on the Gold Coast.
The other thing worth noting is not everything Hayne does is about money. He gave up plenty when he left the Eels and gave up more to come home.
His latest decision, hiring heavy-hitting US attorney Mark Baute to defend him, will significantly eat into his pockets. But that’s how intent Hayne is on clearing his name.
Hayne’s Australian representative, Madison Marcus Law Firm, engaged the Los Angeles-based Baute but also San Francisco-based attorney Joshua Bentley to form Hayne’s mammoth legal representation alongside Ramy Qutami’s Australian-based team.
Baute is the attorney who successfully defended NBA star Derrick Rose when there was $21.5 million being sought by his alleged rape victim.
The same ruthless attorney who, after successfully defending Rose, told The Guardian in reference to the plaintiff: “Crocodile tears. Pretty easy to fake if you’re looking for 20 million bucks. I had the same reaction as many jurors – the tears looked choreographed.”
One of the misconceptions about the latest Hayne saga is the suggestion he fled the country after the sexual assault allegations went public.
That trip wasn’t a getaway. It was the second part of a pre-booked religious odyssey in Jerusalem that was originally cut short so he could return home for his daughter’s first birthday.
He returned home from his trip to celebrate the new year in Sydney, mentally preparing to prove himself at the club he once ruled.
“He wouldn’t admit it but I reckon he would have been a touch nervous today,” Arthur said.
“Not only the awaiting media but coming back here and meeting all the boys. But to be honest, it’s like he never left.
“He has blended straight in and is around people who he cares about and actually care about him. Some of his closest friends are here. Exciting to have him back.
“I did a bit of an introduction for all the returning boys, the guys in their first session back. He was part of that with Jenko, Timmy and Beau. I told them the standards and expectations we have and off we went. I’ll sit with him properly in the next couple of days.”
Hayne hasn’t wasted any time talking up the chances of the team he’s joining. The old "can you lead them to a premiership?" question reared its head.
“That’s definitely our goal and that’s definitely where we are aiming,” Hayne said.
But for now, Hayne’s focus is on getting the body right after a gruelling opening day of preseason.
“We flogged him,” Arthur said.
“He did four sessions today. That’s a pretty good start. The other returning boys did just three. But we put him through a time trial, some weights, contact work and then cardio on the bike to finish off.
“He has some work to do. But the thing about Jarryd is that he’s not an endurance athlete, he’s a power athlete. Just like Semi Radradra was.”
Despite the circus that surrounded Hayne’s first day, this time around it won’t be all about him.
He joins a team with plenty of superstar qualities looking to fit in and prove himself in an environment he once flourished.
“I probably haven’t seen a Parra team with this much talent in it from one to 17,” he said.
We’re all striving for positions. There are probably half a dozen that are locked in but the rest of us are just grinding away and doing our best to put our best foot forward.
“Just coming into today, you’ve got Normy (Corey Norman), Mose (Mitchell Moses), Timmy [Mannah], Bevan [French] and [Clint] Gutherson as well who were absolutely killing it last year. It wasn’t just one or two guys pulling the strings. It was everyone working as a unit and that’s the biggest thing that stood out.”