Jarryd Hayne’s arrival on the Gold Coast completes the Titans’ transformation from NRL wooden spoon favourites to genuine premiership darkhorses.
Hayne’s decision to join the Titans isn’t just the biggest day in the club’s 10-year history, it looms as the final piece in coach Neil Henry’s transformation of a squad many expected to finish dead last in 2016.
The capture of the dual Dally M medallist on a two-year deal to the end of 2018 comes less than two days after the Titans proved their finals credentials in a thrilling 18-all extra time draw against ladder leaders Cronulla.
Now they’ll bring the 28-year-old code-hopper into their squad ahead of potentially their biggest match of the year against the Warriors at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday.
Provided he proves his fitness, as expected, superstar fullback Hayne – who has played NFL in the United States and sevens rugby for Fiji since leaving Parramatta in 2014 – will debut for his new club in the clash between the seventh-placed Titans (23 points) and the eighth-placed Warriors (22).
The lure of immediate football and being a part of the Titans’ finals push over the five remaining rounds were key elements in Hayne deciding to join the club.
A lack of a formal offer from the Eels, still reeling from their salary cap scandal, opened the door for the Titans to lure Hayne north.
“Obviously they (Gold Coast) were very unlucky against the Sharks on Monday night and going forward hopefully I can add something to the team,” Hayne said.
“Just get my body right and get in shape and the rest will look after itself.”
Hayne is the third big mid-season recruit to land at the Titans, joining former Parramatta teammate Nathan Peats and ex-Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell.
It’s marked a huge change of fortune – on and off the field – for a club which a year ago was rocked by Manly star Daly Cherry-Evans’ decision to renege on a multi-million dollar contract to become the face of the Titans.
It means the Titans will head into the final weeks of this season with a proven game-changer at fullback in Hayne, a wrecking-ball strike weapon in the centres in Hurrell, impressive young halfback Ash Taylor and highly-rated hooker Peats.
It’s a spine assembled through elements of good fortune but Henry believes it makes the Titans the match of any opponent.
“That’s where we needed to be strong and we’ve been able to recruit in that area,” Henry told AAP.
“A lot of things have had to fall into place for us to be an option for him. It’s a bit fortuitous that way but we’ll take it.
“I’m sure he (Hayne) will have an impact.”
JARRYD HAYNE’S NRL LIFE:
Born: February 15, 1988 (age 28)
Debut: May 19 2006, v Penrith Panthers
Honours: 2 Dally M Medals (2009, 2014), 3 Brad Fittler Medals (2007, 2008, 2014), RLIF player of the year award (2009).
State of Origin: 20 matches for NSW, nine tries
Australia: 12 matches, 11 tries
Fiji: 4 matches, 3 tries.