Superstar fullback getting ready to put allegiances aside at Rugby League World Cup.
Australia’s Jarryd Hayne has admitted there are times he wishes he was still playing for Fiji ahead of their World Cup group A clash with the Kangaroos this weekend.
Hayne had a reminder of what he’s missing when, after being overlooked for Australia’s matchday squad for their 28-20 win over England in the tournament opener in Cardiff, he travelled up to Rochdale two days later to watch Fiji’s 32-14 victory over Ireland on Monday.
This time five years ago Parramatta Eels full-back Hayne was making a name for himself with Fiji at the 2008 World Cup as they booked a surprise place in the semi-finals before losing to the Kangaroos.
Even this year Sydney-born Hayne, whose NRL season was hampered by a hamstring injury, was readying himself to play for Fiji again only to be called up by Australia, much to his surprise.
Fiji boast former Kangaroos prop Petero Civoniceva as their captain and Hayne couldn’t help but admit he would love to be playing alongside, instead of against, him in St Helens on Saturday.
“It will be an emotional game but I’m excited for it. I saw the Fiji boys after the Ireland game and spent a bit of time with them, had a good laugh, a good catch up and seeing them was great after being in Wales,” said Hayne, who will start on the wing on Saturday in a much-changed Australian team.
“Everyone pretty much knows what it (the 2008 World Cup) did to my life and how it changed it and I was honoured to play for Fiji that year. It was a great experience.
“If I hadn’t been called into the Australian team (this year), I would have played for Fiji.
“The Fijians knew that the Australian call up was coming. It was a bit of shock to me to make the Australian team; I thought I’d be playing for Fiji.
“To see Petero there, playing at the weekend and leading Fiji out was tough, I would have loved to have been out there with the boys and to play with him in his last year, but it was good to see him do that.”
Civoniceva played 45 Tests for Australia and started the 2008 World Cup defeat by New Zealand but couldn’t resist a call up to captain Fiji, where he was born and spent the first six months of his life.
And coach Rick Stone said it was not just on the pitch where Civoniceva, who spent 15 years playing for Brisbane and Penrith in the NRL and turned out for Redcliffe Dolphins in this year’s Queensland Cup, was having an impact upon Fiji.
“His presence has brought some credibility to the team and tipped a few other boys to come across and play for Fiji who were eligible which is great for me,” said Stone, who is also assistant coach at Newcastle Knights in the NRL.
“Leading by example, his discipline is great and he ticks all the boxes. We couldn’t be happier and we are very grateful that he decided to finish his career the way he has.
“He is an extension of the coach, absolutely, with the way he goes about his work and composure on the field and what he does. I have enjoyed working with him so far.
“I have never coached him before but it is a pleasure and an honour to coach him in the last few games of his career.”