Former Parramatta coach Michael Hagan has questioned whether Ricky Stuart is playing mind games by declaring Jarryd Hayne a possible NSW five-eighth, saying the ploy was a huge risk and could easily backfire on the Blues.
An assistant coach with Queensland, Hagan coached Hayne at the Eels until 2008, and has queried the merits behind the star fullback wearing the No.6 jumper, as he will for City in Mudgee on Sunday.
''Jarryd Hayne is a brilliant and instinctive player, a true natural who can produce some amazing football. But playing him at five-eighth at State of Origin level for NSW will throw up some massive challenges,'' Hagan said in a Yahoo! column.
''Hayne doesn't even play five-eighth for Parramatta. Look, I am not saying he couldn't adapt but to expect him to shift positions successfully in only a few weeks is a real big ask.''
Hayne has been chosen at five-eighth for City for the traditional Origin trial and has played there occasionally before. Hagan, however, compared the position move to that of Darren Lockyer, saying the ex-Test captain and former fullback took two years before he fully settled at No.6.
''I remember two years ago Hayne was moved to five-eighth at Parramatta but the experiment didn't really work,'' Hagan said. ''It wasn't an outright failure, mind you - he just didn't look overly comfortable. I question whether such an experiment would be wise at State of Origin level. There is a little part of me that wonders whether NSW coach Ricky Stuart is playing a few mind games here.''
City coach Brad Fittler also weighed into the debate, admitting that Hayne's natural game could be limited by the different role asked of him.
''At fullback it allows him to come in and out of the game when he wants. I think he's going to lose a bit of that surprise factor, no doubt,'' Fittler said. ''When you put him in one position it definitely takes away from another.''
Newcastle's Jarrod Mullen, meanwhile, has been chosen at halfback for Country despite having been converted to a five-eighth by Knights coach Wayne Bennett. ''I do see myself more as a five-eighth,'' Mullen said. ''But anywhere they want to pick me I'm happy to get the job done.''