The Wests Tigers are embracing Jarryd Hayne-mania as they prepare to face Gold Coast’s superstar recruit in his first NRL appearance in his childhood stomping ground.
Hayne has been named at five-eighth for the 10th-placed Titans, who will take on the ninth-placed Tigers on Saturday before close to a 20,000-capacity crowd at Campbelltown Stadium, a couple of kilometres from where Hayne grew up in Minto.
“I grew up as a Parramatta fan. Watching him when I was younger, I always looked up to him. It’s pretty exciting to be coming up against him this week,” said Wests Tigers five eighth Mitchell Moses.
The Tigers spent much of Wednesday’s training session anticipating an array of trick plays as they work to blunt Hayne’s unpredictable skills.
However Moses said he was wary of placing too much emphasis on the code-hopping star.
“He’s just another face in the opposition. That’s how I look at it,” Moses said.
“We’ll do a bit of video on that and see how we go. But he’s a class player and he likes to play what he sees in front of him.
“We’ll be looking for a bit of ball being thrown around, but we’ll be ready for it.”
While anticipation builds around Hayne’s first NRL game in Sydney since defecting to the NFL in 2014, a loss for either team could prove fatal for their finals chances.
Both teams can also move as high as seventh with a win.
“It’s a massive game for us,” said Moses.
“We’re just going to take the games week by week. We’re coming ninth at the moment. We’re going to have to look to have a good game this week and come away with a win.”
Brisbane currently sit in sixth spot on 26 points, however just one point separates Penrith, the Warriors, Tigers and Titans with four games remaining in the regular season.
The Tigers have the most difficult run home of the four teams left in contention for the final two finals spots, including games against the Panthers, Warriors and 3rd-placed Canberra.
Injured West Tigers halfback Luke Brooks is on the comeback trail after running separately from the team for the first time on Wednesday.