Pivotal failure puts Hayne plane on collision course with GI juggernaut in Origin I
Is Jarryd Hayne the man to stop Greg Inglis in State of Origin? After his failed move to five-eighth in Sunday's City-Country match, Hayne is now likely to come under consideration as a centre for NSW in next month's opening Origin match.
Blues coach Ricky Stuart made it clear he believes Hayne is a key figure in the campaign to end Queensland's six-year Origin domination by engineering his selection at five-eighth for City in the match at Mudgee.
The experiment didn't work, with Hayne struggling to make an impact before being shunted out to the wing for the last 15 minutes when Feleti Mateo took over the five-eighth role. With Country five-eighth Todd Carney putting his hand up for the Blues No.6 jersey, Stuart now has to either bite the bullet and admit Hayne is NSW's best fullback or find another position for him.
After Stuart explained Hayne's shock omission for the opening game of last year's series by controversially declaring he was ''not a fullback'', the Parramatta star was recalled for Origin II on the wing. Stuart even resisted the urge to move Hayne to fullback after Canberra's Josh Dugan was ruled out with injury and Manly coach Des Hasler told him Brett Stewart was not fit enough for the rigours of Origin, calling in Roosters veteran Anthony Minichiello instead.
Hayne then played left centre in Origin III after Will Hopoate and Michael Jennings were sidelined by injury. Injuries and the form of players set to return in coming weeks will largely determine the make-up of the Blues outside backs, with Dugan and Stewart having hardly played this season. Both are expected back next weekend and will have up to three games to stake their claims for Origin I in Melbourne on May 23.
Hayne and St George Illawarra's Brett Morris are the other main fullback options, but the latter didn't shine for Country the way he has in his five games wearing the Dragons No.1 jersey this season - suggesting he may be better suited to the wing, where Hayne has played most of his representative games.
Should Dugan or Stewart win the fullback role or Morris be chosen there, Hayne will come into contention for left wing but he may also be considered as a centre.
Assuming Jennings is fit, he will play left centre but Stuart's only genuine right centre option is Chris Lawrence and the Wests Tigers star has been largely out of sorts returning from last year's Four Nations tour.
Lawrence played for City and got the better of Country's Josh Morris, but it was hardly a performance that screamed ''pick me'' for Origin.
In fact, Sydney Roosters left centre Joseph Leilua was the best centre on the field and the way he pushed off South Sydney's Matt King leading up to a City try reinforced the task faced by whoever Stuart chooses to mark Inglis.
Having played right centre for Australia when Mark Gasnier was knocked out by Steve Matai in the opening exchanges of the end of season 2007 Test in Wellington, Hayne may be the man to handle Inglis.
He is big enough, is renowned as a strong defender and did a good job of shutting down Darren Lockyer when he played five-eighth for Fiji against Australia in the 2008 World Cup. Hayne played centre for the Eels until moving to fullback in 2007 after an injury to Luke Burt.