There once was a time when James Tedesco wasn’t the King of Campbelltown.
Before the Camden product was burning NRL turf in the modern era, and after former Wests Magpie Jason Taylor was piloting conversions in a former one, there was a player from Minto that every kid wanted to be.
That player, code-hopper Jarryd Hayne, on Saturday returns to his hometown for the first time in his NRL career when Gold Coast look to keep their season alive against Wests Tigers.
Tigers winger David Nofoaluma remembers a time when every aspiring league junior in the area, including himself, had eyed Hayne’s every move, swerve, and even footwear.
“I remember going to get a pair of boots that he wore when I was only a youngster. You go to the store and you ask to get the Jarryd Hayne boots,” Nofoaluma told AAP.
“Jarryd’s from Campbelltown, so he was one of the players you looked up to when I was a kid. To come in the NRL and even play against him was massive for me.
“Back in 2009, he was it. He was the man everyone wanted to be.”
Despite Hayne’s famous move to gridiron in 2014 that captured the imagination of the entire nation, his mantle as the most popular sportsperson in south-west Sydney was taken over by another local in Tedesco.
Not only that, but some even consider the Tigers star the premier fullback in the league today, and won’t simply hand back the NSW No.1 State of Origin jumper to its predecessor next year.
Tedesco’s effort this year is reminiscent of Hayne’s unforgettable campaign in 2009, when he single-handedly dragged Parramatta to a fairytale grand final appearance with an unprecedented run of form.
In Tedesco’s 16 games to Hayne’s 26 seven years ago, Tedesco has matched, or almost matched, the former Parramatta star in tries (14 each) and line break assists (Tedesco’s 10 to Hayne’s 11).
However Hayne’s 178 tackle busts (89), 37 offloads (6) and 175 metres per game (135) proved that there is still some way for the 23-year-old Tedesco to go.
On Saturday at Campbelltown Sports Stadium, the local products face off in what is arguably the most anticipated individual showdown of the NRL season.
There’s a lot of kids out here that want to be the kind of player that Teddy is,” Nofoaluma said.
“Stats say a lot of things, but I reckon Teddy’s actually got more to give. He’s got a long way to go and we haven’t seen the best of him yet. If he keeps this up, there’s no telling what he can do.”
HAYNE 2009 v TEDESCO 2016
Games: 26 to 16
Tries: 14 to 14
Points: 57 to 56
Avg possessions: 28 to 23
Avg runs: 17 to 13
Avg metres: 175 to 135
Tackle busts: 178 to 89
Line breaks: 34 to 16
Line break assists: 11 to 10
Try assists: 19 to 10
Offloads: 37 to 6
Errors: 33 to 16
Penalties conceded: 15 to 4