Back off: Eels legend defends Jarryd Hayne
RUGBY LEAGUE: Eels legend Brett Kenny has leapt to the defence of under-siege superstar Jarryd Hayne's pre-season struggles, insisting he should only be judged by what he does on the football field once the season starts.
Hayne's return to Parramatta has been the big story of the off-season and his performances in every time trial and fitness test heavily scrutinised.
The girth of his backside even came in for examination when it was revealed coach Brad Arthur beat him home in a torture test held on the Central Coast - although it must be said that Arthur beat home vast majority of the squad.
Speaking on Bill and Boz ahead of the historic Super League clash in Wollongong on Saturday where Wigan Warriors and Hull FC will play for the Kenny-Sterling Shield, Kenny highlighted the training habits of a host of Eels greats before defending Hayne.
"There was a guy by the name of Eric Grothe who was absolutely outstanding when it came to distance running,” Kenny said tongue-in-cheek, Grothe once famously catching a taxi during a lengthy pre-season road run.
"That's what they're saying about Jarryd Hayne, that he's getting beaten by Brad Arthur in a distance run.
"That's not Jarryd Hayne. Jarryd Hayne is a sprinter. Jarryd Hayne is not used to running long distances.
"As long as he's doing his job, don't judge what he's doing on the training field, judge what he does on the football field.
"If he performs on the football field, that's great.”
Eels captain Tim Mannah has also defended Hayne, praising his teammate's attitude and maturity during the pre-seasonr.
"I've played with him for many years and this is the most dedicated I've seen him to his training in terms of doing extra work in the gym, really having a crack on the field,” Mannah said.
"And when the football's out, he just naturally does what he does. He's been great this off-season and I'm sure he's excited as anyone else to get onto the field.”
With the Eels' season-opener one month away, Mannah insists Hayne is a far different player from the one who made a dramatic exit from the club in 2014.
Hayne has since appeared in the NFL and attempted to feature for Fijian sevens team at the Rio Olympics before struggling in his NRL return at the Gold Coast.
He's also become a father for the first time and has been the subject of a rape allegation in a civil suit stemming from his time with the San Francisco 49ers in 2015, which Hayne says he will vigorously defend.
"I feel there's a bit more maturity about him,” Mannah said.
"He's starting to grow off the field and he's obviously had some life lessons that he's gone through and come back a bit more of a complete player, which is good for us as a club.”