Hayne humbled by unavoidable truth
NRL great Matty Johns says Jarryd Hayne putting himself through punishing pre-season training is a sign the representative star has acknowledged he no longer holds the same weight he once did within rugby league.
Hayne - who has returned to the Parramatta Eels from the Gold Coast Titans - has been training with his new teammates on the NSW Central Coast as they tackle sand dunes and obstacle courses to prepare for the 2018 season.
The 29-year-old finished last in at least one run, outdone by coach Brad Arthur.
Hayne has for a long time had a reputation as a poor trainer, with reports suggesting he would at times sit out of certain sessions in his first stint with the Eels because he didn't want to take part.
Johns says this is probably the first time in a decade Hayne has undergone such torturous training in the pre-season and believes he is going through the endurance tests - rather than taking the easy way out - because he knows he's on his last chance as an NRL player.
"If I was Jarryd I would be alarmed about what my fitness levels had dropped to," Johns told the Sydney Triple M Grill Team on Wednesday.
"If I'm a Parramatta fan I will say this, I'm encouraged he's out there actually doing the training because I would imagine, and from what I've heard about Jarryd and his training, I reckon it's been over a decade since he's done this type of training.
"He's been the sort of guy who - talking to Hindy (former Eels star Nathan Hindmarsh) - would say, 'I don't need this sort of training.' He'd prefer the speed.
"You can't (pick and choose) but I think Jarryd was renowned for running his own race to a certain extent.
"He's gone back to Parramatta and in a lot of ways he's out of chances. This is his last chance so he's lobbed up with Brad Arthur and Brad Arthur's from the (Storm coach) Craig Bellamy school of fitness and application and he's forced him to do this sort of training."
Hayne was underwhelming for the Titans last season after signing midway through 2016 following his failed bid to make the Fiji rugby sevens Olympic team, and faces a tough battle to win back the hearts of Eels fans after he left the club in 2014 to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.
Despite being a two-time Dally M Medal winner, last season's disappointing performances showed Hayne hasn't come back to rugby league as the same world-beater he once was, and that he is taking part in the gruelling endurance tests is perhaps a sign he knows he no longer has the power to do as he pleases.
Johns believes Hayne's days of dominating in the No. 1 jersey are over but says even if he is struggling in pre-season, Parramatta supporters should still take heart from what they're seeing.
"If I'm the Gold Coast you'd be watching going, 'Oh my God,' that's how low his levels have been coming out of NFL where you don't do any cardio at all," Johns said.
"I think the days of Jarryd playing fullback may be gone - certainly playing fullback over 80 minutes but if he gets his fitness levels to a certain degree with his natural talent, then I've got no doubt he could turn into a first class centre.
"At the moment his fitness levels are low but they'd be on the improve. If I'm a Parramatta fan and I'm seeing this, even if he's coming last, if he's out there and he's doing the Ks, and he's sweating the bullets, for me that's a good sign.
"Even though Hayne's coming last and even though he's struggling at the moment I still think the signs are good he's out there putting the Ks into his legs."
Fox Sports chief NRL reporter James Hooper said earlier this week Hayne's body shape after his NFL days is part of the reason his fitness is down.
"Jarryd has never been a tremendous pre-season trainer, we know that," Hooper told NRL 360. "When Ricky Stuart had him at the Parramatta Eels - and all his coaches will tell you - pre-season's not where Jarryd does his best work.
"The Eels are up at Soldiers Beach on the Central Coast. Last week I watched them do some sand dunes and a 5km hectic obstacle course. What I got out of that: Jarryd Hayne did finish in last position but what I got ... you can really see the strength work that he had to put in to his body physically in the NFL.
"He's got a huge rump, massive. It's not fat but it's just big, it's rotund. It's a little bit Serena Williams-esque."