Man of the moment: Jarryd Hayne. Photo: Edwina Pickles
His appointment as Parramatta captain last year raised a few eyebrows, but the evolution of Jarryd Hayne has put him in pole position to take over as the next NSW captain.
With skipper Paul Gallen entrenched in the twilight of his representative career, and vice captain Robbie Farah in his 30s, Hayne has been backed by his teammates and coach as Gallen's successor.
Blues coach Laurie Daley said this series could be the making of the fullback – a rare talent who is often in the spotlight for what he doesn't do rather than the freakish feats he produces on a football field.
Skipper in waiting?: Jarryd Hayne was untouchable in game one. Photo: Getty Images
When Ricky Stuart handed him the captaincy at the Eels last year, question were raised over how someone so aloof and enigmatic could develop into a leader other players would gravitate towards.
His superhuman showing in game one proved he could lead by example on the field, but it is his contribution to the team off the field this series that appeals most on his résumé to take over from Gallen as the state's leader.
He's talking in team meetings, laying down the law in the sheds and taking a greater interest in the camp, even though sometimes it may come across as though he'd rather be back in his hotel room playing FIFA 14.
Teammates say Hayne is maturing into a true leader. Photo: James Brickwood
While Daley has more pressing matters to worry about than life after Gallen, he said Hayne was well and truly in the discussion as the Blues' next skipper.
"I couldn't see why he can't be," Daley said.
"There's a noticeable difference in his demeanour and attitude which is good for us. He's our most experienced player. Someone now that has played 20 games needs to be filling that leadership role, and he's doing it.
"I think [this series] can be the making of him, but he needs to back up that game one performance. Jarryd is a guy who has got such huge potential and he's coming into the best stage of his career. When you get into that stage of your career, you want to make the most of it."
He may not be in a position of power at the NSW Rugby League any more, but given Stuart's history as Blues coach and the role he played in making Hayne captain at the Eels, he's well qualified to give an opinion on the 26-year-old.
And he couldn't have summed it up better, because generally what Hayne wants, Hayne gets.
"Jarryd's most definitely captain material, but Jarryd's the only one who can answer whether he's the next NSW captain," Stuart said.
"He makes that decision. He's got the game at his feet, he's got every facet of play and thrives in Origin football. It's his decision if he's going to take the next step.
"He's got that capacity and ability to do it. But you can't switch the flick on and off if you're captain. You have to be captain 24 hours a day. That's not directed at Jarryd, but you can't be captain when you feel like being captain, you have to be captain all day every day."
While Farah is the logical choice to take over from Gallen if the Cronulla forward calls it quits in the Origin arena at the end of this series, the Tigers hooker wouldn't be a long-term solution.
Farah is considered one of the best leaders in the game. He said Hayne's development and maturity over the past 12 months had been astonishing.
"He's taken a lot more hands-on approach and I think he sees himself now as a leader within this group and a senior player," Farah said.
"He knows that when he speaks, the other boys will listen to him and respect what he says. It definitely gives us a lot of confidence when he's leading like that. He's our most capped player here but I think he's matured a lot and learnt a lot from the captaincy he's had at Parramatta. You definitely see that when we come in here. He was great leading into game one, not only with his talk but with his actions, and that showed on the night. He was unbelievable for us.
"I knew when Sticky gave him the captaincy that it would be a challenge for him because it's always a big learning curve. You're never given the captaincy and become a great captain straight off the bat. Even with myself, I found there were things I struggled with and things you adapt to through experience and you get better and better. I think last year he'd be the first to put his hand up and admit there were times when it probably got the better of him, but he's really matured into that role. It was a great decision by Sticky."
Blues back-rower Ryan Hoffman, who played his first Origin game for NSW in Hayne's debut match in 2007, said the Eels fullback was next in line for the captaincy.
"He is," Hoffman said. "He's certainly matured so much from that first game we played together. Not only as a player, but as an individual off the field too. Haynesy was the sort of bloke who would be in the game and out of the game. But he showed in Origin one that with his maturity now, he's just always in the game and always around. That's a big thing and that's what quality players do; they never fall out of the game."