Eels pick up the pace to retain Hayne
No rift … Jarryd Hayne is happy at the Eels. Photo: Getty Images
OPERATION Retain Hayne has commenced.
Parramatta have opened negotiations to keep Jarryd Hayne at the club long term, despite doubts about the salary cap for next year and beyond. A radio report suggested that new coach Ricky Stuart had fallen out with Hayne - an allegation strenuously denied by the Eels star. But the latest development suggests the two influential Eels are keen to continue an association that stretches back to their time together in representative football for NSW and Australia.
Eels officials held a preliminary meeting with Hayne's manager, Wayne Beavis, before Christmas and the parties will return to the negotiating table on Monday. ''We've been in communication with Wayne and we're really happy with where everything is at the moment,'' Stuart told Fairfax Media.
Retention priority ... Jarryd Hayne. Photo: Getty Images
Hayne headlines a list of marquee players coming off contract which includes Johnathan Thurston, Jamie Lyon, Mitchell Pearce, Matt Scott, Robbie Farah, Todd Carney and Josh Reynolds. Hayne is Parramatta's retention priority, while North Queensland and Australian forward Scott tops their recruitment wish list. While Hayne is sure to be sought by rivals, Beavis said Parramatta would be given the first opportunity
to negotiate with his star client. ''I always talk to the incumbent club first and see where we are at,'' Beavis said.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks is likely to be uncertainty over the cap. A mooted rise to about $5.8 million has yet to be rubber stamped and there is continuing uncertainty over how much it will increase in future years.
One leading player agent said: ''It's late in the piece but we still don't know where the goalposts are. There is a stack of talent with its future unresolved and we'll remain in a holding pattern until we know what the cap is going forward.''
While Eels officials chose not to comment on reports of unrest in the camp, Hayne took to Twitter to vent. ''New year-New RUBBISH rumour … Poked the bull with this one.''
There has been speculation over whether Hayne will play in his customary fullback role or slot into the halves alongside Chris Sandow. In a recent interview, the NSW star said Luke Kelly and Ben Roberts were likely to vie for the No.6 jersey, and Stuart confirmed Hayne was ''training at fullback''.
Hayne will break from Parramatta's pre-season camp in Armidale to join Wayne Bennett's squad for their All Stars camp in Queensland. Stuart is yet to appoint a club captain, although Hayne could be one of the contenders. ''I'm not far away,'' Stuart said. ''We are away for this week and next so nothing is going to be done before the end of next week.''
Stuart will run his eye over some of the promising young talent in the Eels' system during a trial against Newcastle on Saturday.
''We've got a second-tier trial this week which Reni Maitua will play in because he's got a two-match suspension and he can't play in our two official trial matches. Luke Kelly will play in that because he hasn't played much football.
''A couple of young kids will play in that in what should be a good start [prior] to the season.''
Meanwhile, Warriors sensation Shaun Johnson has been called into Bennett's NRL All Stars team to replace the injured Cooper Cronk.
Cronk was ruled out of the annual pre-season trial on Thursday, with Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy reluctant to risk his playmaker before the World Club Challenge against Leeds on February 22.
The Storm halfback has a minor back injury, which has paved the way for Johnson to join Warriors teammate Feleti Mateo in the side for the clash against the Indigenous All Stars at Suncorp Stadium on February 9.
"It's all a bit surreal for me at the moment," Johnson said. "[Coach] Matt [Elliott] called me to let me know. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity."