National Rugby League: Cagey Hayne sidesteps questions over rape allegations

“If youdon’t start asking football questions,” utteredBradArthur from the back of the rather large media scrum, “I am going to pull him.”

CENTRE OF ATTENTION: Jarryd Hayne trained off loads the ball at his first training session won Wednesday since returning to Parramatta. Picture: AAP Imagesith Parramat

The thing is, though, only a handful of reporters atJarrydHayne’sfirst media conference on the firstday of his secondcoming at his oldclub hadany rugby league questions for him.

Most wantedto talk about the rape allegationthat hasbeen levelledat him in a civil lawsuit from a 25-year-oldwoman known only as Ms V.

It’s an all-too-common occurrence in footy thesedays: general news reporters asking about an off-fieldissue, rubbing shoulders with sports reporters who needto cover off on both.

“If you want to talk about football I am more than happy,”Haynesaidafter he was bombardedwith questions that weren’t about football. “I can’t talk about it. You can ask whatever you wanna ask, but I’ll avoidit anddeflect it andtalk about my lawyers. If you want to talk about football, I love being back at my childhoodclub, seeing the guys I’ve playedfooty with since I was a kid…”

A footballer who is usually swimming in self-confidence,Hayneappearednervous as he triedto “avoidanddeflect” to his lawyers.

It was a curious scene.

Standing just over his right shoulder throughout his 10-minute grilling stooda snappilydressedyoung man —dark suit, tie, even a silver tie pin — who hadearlier emergedfrom a shiny black BMW before walking through a hole in the wire fence at the Eels’ nondescript training groundin North Parramatta.

He was later revealedto be an associate ofHayne’slawyer,RamyQutami, andwhenHaynefinishedavoiding anddeflecting the bloke with the tie-pin handedout media statements to reporters.

Along with another “unequivocal andvehement”denial of the allegations, the statement revealedthatHayne’sattorney in the US will be MarkBaute.

The name shouldring a bell with followers of US sport andthe NBA.BautesuccessfullydefendedNew YorkKnickspoint-guardDerek Rose andtwo of his friends against rape allegations in an enormously publicisedtrial in 2016.

Bautereducedthe woman to tears inthe witness box andlater wore accusations from many quarters of “slut shaming” her. “Crocodile tears,” he saidin an interview withThe Guardian. “Pretty easy to fake if you’re looking for 20 million bucks.”

Wednesday afternoon’s media opp was a perfect opportunity forHayneto elaborate on the accusations being levelledat him from Ms V. He lookedlike he wantedto but wasn’t budging from the instructions of his legal team. Fair enough: that’s what they are being paidfor.

Still, he’s more than aware of thedistraction this whole episode has been causing his old/new club since the story broke just before Christmas.

Arthur later toldFairfax Media it wasHayne’sidea to address the media on his firstday back at the club he left in 2014 when he wantedto pursue a career in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, the teamHaynewas playing for when therape allegedlyoccurred.

“It was his idea todo it because it wasbest for the club andthe team andnot himself,” Arthur said. “He phonedme [before Christmas] andsaid:’Idon’t want to put you through this so let’sdeal with it’. He was keen todeal with it before New Year’s but I saidlet’s wait until you start on January 3.”

It’s optimistic to believe that one short media conference will bury the interest in the story or evenHayne, although it will stop — for now — non-rugby league news crewsdoing live crossesduring Eels training sessions.

“It’s just one of those things you gotta go through,”Haynesaid. “It’s a bit of adversity. As players we go through all sorts of things. This is the situation I’m in andwe’ll go through it.”

Playersdo face all sorts of adversity —Hayne’senduredplenty, some of it of his owndoing — but a high-profile civil lawsuit that couldsee him return to the US shouldit go to trial is somethingdifferent altogether.

Will the allegationbe adistraction for him?

“Being in this environment aroundus andhe’s busy andhis teammates, that will be the key,” Arthur said. “There will be times when he’s on his own andhe might struggle with it. But our players have become quite tighter away from our training base now. He’s got a lot of friends here like TimMannah, Michael Jennings … that he cares about andthey care about him.”

Another question about the case promptedHayneto chuckle. “Football!” he pleaded. A football question was forthcoming andsuddenly the media scrum halved, most of them no longer interested.

WhenHaynetrainedbefore the cameras earlier in the morning, he struggledin runningdrills, plodding away at the back of the pack. That’s theHaynePlane we all know andlove: it was nodifferent when he was here as their bona fide superstar. Their only superstar.

What the camerasdidn’t capture was that it was one of four sessions for theday, including extras on a bike before hedidhis press conference.

“The lungs were alright but it was more the legs,”Haynesaid. “I’ve got a big 11 weeks before the season starts.”

SaidArthur: “I know it sounds corny but it was goodto have him back… I spoke to him yesterday andhe rang me again late last night. He’dnever say it but he was nervous about today andwhat was in front of him. [But] it’s a bit like he’dnever left. He blendedstraight in.”

Arthur andParramatta are expecting somethingdifferent fromHaynethis time around.

The last time he was here, he was the bigdog whobarkedwhenever he wantedto. Because the Eels were so reliant on him, their season swung on which side of the bedhe got out of.

Parramatta are no longer that kindof club.

“What wedon’t expect from him is to win games of footy for us,” Arthur said. “What we expect is that he brings his best version of himself every week, plays consistent … When we needsomeone to break the game open, we want him todo that. But he’s not reliedupon todo that all the time.”

It was probably the best thingHaynecould’veheard.

“That’s going to be great,” he said. “Just coming in today, you’ve gotNormie[CoreyNorman],Mose[Mitchell Moses],Timmy[Mannah], Bev [Bevan French] …It wasn’t just one or two guys pulling the strings, but everyone working as a unit. Me coming in, I won’t have to be that presence again.”

Then this: “AndI won’t have todo as many media interviews too.”

Yeah …don’t bet.

Cagey Hayne sidesteps rape allegations TweetFacebook Jarryd Hayne touches down at ParramattaPictures: AAP Images

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