Hayne admits his Origin comeback was 'touch and go'
IT'S one of the enduring images of the Blues' drought-breaking Origin series win.
A triumphant Jarryd Hayne, arms spread wide, receiving plaudits from hysterical Blues fans after NSW claimed the series in 2014.
Hayne, it seemed, was the Blues' saviour - the man to take them to the promised land after helping stop Queensland's eight-year domination of the Origin series.
And then he left.
For two years Hayne pursued other sporting dreams. But little, it seems, came close to rugby league's biggest stage.
He's arguably the biggest name in the game but Hayne admits his Origin return was "touch and go" as he battled to find the form to deserve a Blues recall.
"Obviously Origin's one of the highest things you can do in the game and it's always a pleasure playing," he said.
"But I always knew that form had to get me in there.
"Speaking to Laurie (NSW coach Laurie Daley) before the series, he said the same thing.
"So we're on the same page.
"It was very touch and go whether I got in or not but I think Laurie knows me well enough to know what I do on the big stage."
Just in case he had forgotten, Hayne gave him a reminder in game one - and a replay of that famous pose.
Despite Queensland - foolishly, Maroons coach Kevin Walters conceded - calling him out as a defensive liability ahead of the match, Hayne proved he was up to the shift into the centres.
Despite making a couple of early blunders, Hayne looked dangerous with the ball in hand and when he got his chance, he made the most of it, strolling through the ragged Queensland defence to score in front of the Blues supporters and replicate his 2014 pose.
"It was awesome," Hayne said of the victory.
"Just ... the amount of pressure you're under. It's such a big thing, Origin, and playing up at Suncorp is never easy.
"Everyone is talking about that first half, we were just like zombies going back and forth, back and forth, and that's what Origin's all about - and that's why it's so special."
Hayne has admitted he was utterly spent by half-time after an opening 40 minutes rated one of the great Origin spectacles.
"(It was) almost old-school footy, just going toe to toe and grinding away," the Titans fullback said of the opening stages of game one.
But Hayne knows the Blues' opening win guarantees nothing.
The 29-year-old sees plenty of enthusiasm in the NSW team.
"I think it's a young squad, or more of an inexperienced squad, and with that comes a lot of enthusiasm and that's what we're really riding on," he said.
But he knows better than most the way Queensland will hit back, especially after the return of Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater.
"With Billy and Thursto coming back, two of the greats, they're definitely going to be harder to defend," he said.
"They have a great combination and they're very hard to stop.
"We'll have our hands full.
"We know they're going to come back bigger and better, like in '14, in game two, they were bigger and better.
"For us, I think with the experience they've brought back and Bill coming back and Thursto as well, I think they're going to be as hungry as ever."
Hayne says replicating 2014 is "definitely not the focus" for the Blues, who are just focused on the job at hand.
"Once we see an opportunity we have to take it," he said.
"That's the key for us, that's the key for Origin because you don't get many.
"When you do, you've really got to take them."
There's plenty of talk about "we" and "us". Hayne seems to be comfortable playing a bit-part if the Blues are to win.
But Hayne senses moments like almost no one else in the game and there's little doubt he'll be playing a major role tonight if the Blues are to win, justifying Daley's decision to return him to the Origin fold.
If it happens, expect him to find his place again - enveloped by the adoring throng, arms spread wide, the saviour back in his rightful place.