The man who introduced Jarryd Hayne to the NRL has endorsed the superstar’s move to five-eighth for Gold Coast despite his lack of match fitness.
It was 10 years ago when a younger Jason Taylor handed Hayne his first grade debut at Parramatta, but he always knew the former Eels star had potential in the halves.
Ahead of the Wests Tigers’ crunch match against the Titans on Saturday, Taylor is wary of Hayne’s impact on the result as a ball-player despite being just one game into his NRL return.
“His running game is his number one area but the fact that he can pass the way he can, play with some subtleties, and kick the ball, there’s no reason why he can’t play five-eighth,” Taylor said on Friday.
“I’m not their coach, but I think it’s the right decision for them … to slot him into a position where they’ve got an injury is a smart play.”
Taylor also conceded that it would be fruitless for them to blunt Hayne’s effectiveness by forcing him to work overtime in defence, having not played at five-eighth since 2011.
“I’ve heard (Titans coach Neil Henry) talk about not guaranteeing that he’ll play 80 minutes, so he’s aware of that,” Taylor said.
“It’s not just about Jarryd… If we can make him make some tackles, great. But we’ve got to make their big forwards tackle too because they’re why they’re where they are on the competition table.”
Taylor also played down Luke Brooks’s chances of a return despite joining in the captain’s run.
Brooks was initially expected to miss up to five weeks after hurting his knee against Parramatta a fortnight ago, but trained with the team for the first time since on Friday.
“Brooksy’s going well. He’s on track to play next week, if not this week. But he’s a very, very late chance of playing this week,” Taylor said.
Asked if the No.7 would play the Titans, Taylor said: “I don’t think so. But as usual, we’ll let you know that the team is an hour before kick-off.”
Brooks’s return would be a massive boost for the ninth-placed Tigers ahead of their crucial encounter against the Hayne-led Titans.
The Tigers sit behind seventh-placed Penrith on percentages, and can end Gold Coast’s ambitions of a spot in the finals by claiming what would be their fourth straight win.
“We know our situation. If we don’t win on the weekend, we don’t have to worry about the ladder,” Titans co-captain Nathan Friend said.
STATS THAT MATTER
* All 10 of the Tigers’ wins this season have come when leading at halftime, with the Tigers losing seven from seven when behind or level. The Titans are six from six when leading at the break this season.
* The Tigers are now chasing four straight wins for the first time since winning seven in a row from rounds 7-14, 2012.
* The Tigers are the best attacking team in the opening 20 minutes this season, scoring 136 points. The Titans are the best attacking team in the final 20 minutes this season, scoring 160 points.