Parramatta coach Brad Arthur believes Jarryd Hayne evolved into an even more complete footballer at the World Cup but he warns the Eels are doomed to fail if they again if they leave it all up to their superstar.
One of the first things Arthur did upon returning as Eels coach was to approach fullback Hayne for input on how the NRL battlers can go about rising off the bottom of the table.
But Arthur already had firm ideas.
An assistant at the Eels in 2012, and briefly the head coach after Stephen Kearney was fired, Arthur understands how influential Hayne is, but also that two consecutive wooden spoons prove one-man teams can’t succeed in the NRL.
In the backline, the Eels also boast the brilliant attacking weaponry of Chris Sandow and Will Hopoate.
However Arthur served his coaching apprenticeship at the relentless Melbourne Storm and last year as assistant with tough-as-nails Manly, and his pedigree has taught him never to focus on the individual.
Defence is Arthur’s bread and butter.
And that means a major attitude adjustment for a side with an average age of just 21, who have gotten used to the idea of being the NRL whipping boys.
“What I don’t want us doing is focusing on what happened in the past and same old same old,” said Arthur.
“We’re trying to create our own history and our own style of footy that we want to play.
“A lot of my coaching style is defence-orientated and I feel that is a strength of mine.
“The Manly players … they just had a real desire and a will with their attitude to defence and that’s what we’re trying to develop here.
“If we can get 13 or 14 players out of the 17 every week playing to the maximum of their potential, I think that’s the priority for us.
“Jarryd could come out and play to the best of his ability every week but if we’re not pulling around him and working with him… it’s pointless.”
That said, Arthur senses Hayne is capable of going to another level in 2014.
The 26-year-old starred in the less familiar position of centre for Australia at the World Cup, but will oversee an Eels game plan he’s helped instil from fullback.
“He’s very smart Jarryd and he’s come back with another level of maturity from the World Cup,” said Arthur.
“I’ve had several conversations with him and we’re going to work together.
“I’ve got the way I think we should play and we’re on the same page. He’ll throw a few suggestions in and the buy-in from him as a leader has been exceptional.
“Sometimes he can see other things that other players just can’t see.”
Sandow is likely to get first crack at the No.7 jersey. However, Luke Kelly is also in contention.
Hopoate will make his much-anticipated return to the NRL at centre after two years serving as a Mormon missionary.
Arthur says miracles shouldn’t be expected of Hopoate immediately, but he has no doubts the 21-year-old can reclaim his best.
“He’s been out for two years but he’s got very good direction about what he wants to get out of life,” he said.
“He’s the ultimate professional. Mentally he’s given himself every opportunity to be the best he can. I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight.”
Premierships: 4 – 1981, 1982, 1983, 1986
Finishes over the past three seasons: 2013 – 16th, 2012 – 16th, 2011 – 14th
Coach: Brad Arthur
Co-captains: Jarryd Hayne/Tim Mannah
Gains: Will Hopoate (unattached), Lee Mossop (Wigan), Nathan Peats (Rabbitohs), Corey Norman (Broncos), Justin Hunt (Rabbitohs), David Gower (Sea Eagles), Liam Foran (Salford)
Losses: Taulima Tautai (Wakefield), Reni Maitua (Bulldogs), Cheyse Blair (Sea Eagles), Jake Mullaney (Salford), Pat O’Hanlon (Bulldogs), Matt Keating (Burleigh), Matt Ryan (Wakefield)
Strength: Jarryd Hayne went to a new level at the Rugby League World Cup and Parramatta will be hoping his midas touch can see them out of the NRL cellar.
Weakness: When you’ve claimed back-to-back wooden spoons, self-belief can be a problem. Week-in-week-out consistency will test the Eels.
Best team: Jarryd Hayne, Ken Sio, Will Hopoate, Willie Tonga, Semi Radradra, Corey Norman, Chris Sandow, Tim Mannah, Nathan Peats, Fuifui Moimoi, Darcy Lussick, Peni Terepo, Joseph Paulo. Interchange: Taniela Lasalo, Pauli Pauli, Mitchell Allgood, Luke Kelly
Predicted finish: 15th