Jarryd Hayne might have stolen his house, but James Tedesco isn’t ready to give up his jersey.
Hayne returned to the NRL in a blaze of glory last year when he nailed a game-winning field goal against the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown in just his second game back from the NFL.
He immediately declared the southwest as his home and is widely assumed to waltz back into his beloved NSW No.1 jumper for this year’s State of Origin series.
But Camden product Tedesco has laid down the challenge to the former San Francisco 49er, believing his best football still makes him the state’s premier fullback.
“Last year when he came back it was a surprise, but now I know how good I can play and how I am as a player,” Tedesco said on Friday.
“I know if I can stay on the field and play my best footy, I’m hopeful I can retain that No.1 jersey. Anywhere in the backline, I’d be happy to get a run.
“But I’m pretty confident, if I can play my best footy, I can keep my spot.”
Tedesco’s confidence comes as negotiations with his club continue on what could be the 24-year-old’s biggest pay day of his rugby league career.
The Tigers’ star is one of a plethora to come off-contract at the end of this season, including captain Aaron Woods and playmakers Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks.
Interestingly, they are all managed by Moses’ cousin Isaac at ID Elite Sports Management.
Tedesco joined the Moses stable last year, two years after his backflip on a lucrative deal to join Canberra under coach Ricky Stuart.
The Tigers’ fullback admits the contract saga had burdened his football in 2014, but is adamant he is now mature enough to handle the pressure this time around.
“If I was a bit younger, I’d want to get it done. I’d be worrying about the season, how I’d go. But I’m not worried about it at the moment,” he said.
“I’m at the age now where I want a good, long-term contract. I’m pretty happy with how I’ve been playing over the last year or two.
“I’m not sure if my value’s going to go any further up or down. I’m looking to settle in and, once I get my long-term contract, I’ll be settled into that team.
“It’s probably easier with me, Mitch, Brooksy and Woodsy all with the same manager … those boys have been with him for a while now. They’ve always got confidence in leaving it with him and not stressing out about too much.”