Gold Coast star recruit Jarryd Hayne appears to have put injury concerns aside and is set to play for the Titans in Saturday’s crucial home NRL clash with Penrith.
He had been in doubt due to a corked calf but, according to the Nine Network, coach Neil Henry says Hayne will face the Panthers after being named in his preferred fullback position for the first time since joining the Titans.
He suffered the setback in last weekend’s win over Newcastle, but Nine is reporting the two-time Dally M medallist breezed through Friday’s final training session.
In an earlier promising sign, Hayne tweeted on Friday afternoon: “Looking forward to seeing a sea of blue tomorrow!!”
A win over the seventh-placed Panthers would be enough for the eighth-placed Titans to secure finals football for the first time since 2010.
Penrith coach Anthony Griffin is wary of the Hayne factor, admitting his form in his three matches since returning to the game following stints in American football and sevens rugby had been beyond expectation.
“To be able to jump straight back in and have the impact that he’s had, I think he’s better than what he was before he left,” Griffin said.
“He’s probably got a lot of confidence out of what he’s done with his life in general.
“I’d say he’s much better.”
Hayne’s move to fullback means the Titans can play halves Tyrone Roberts and Ash Taylor together for the first time in a month, although Roberts (flu) is another who is under a cloud heading into the match.
Rested against the Knights, Taylor returns in time to face off with Panthers’ rookie Nathan Cleary in a battle between the competition’s two boom halves.
Griffin knows Taylor well from his time at Brisbane and says the Titans’ youngster has done exceptionally well in 2016.
“He’s a really good boy, Ash – he’s a tough competitor,” Griffin said.
“A little bit like Cleary, he’s jumped in this year, his first year in the NRL, and has really directed his team around well.
“It’s great for both clubs. It’s exciting when your young players are doing a job.”
TITANS v PANTHERS – Key match stats:
* A win for either team will ensure they’re playing finals this year
* Penrith have won their past three matches by 20 points or more – the first time they’ve taken three straight since 2014
* No Gold Coast team has won two matches in a season against Penrith