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Friday night lights: battle of the superstars
March 26, 2010
They are very different players in very different football teams. But what Jarryd Hayne and Benji Marshall share is mutual admiration - and an admission from each that the other is almost impossible to stop.
On the eve of tonight’s clash between Hayne’s Parramatta and Marshall’s Wests Tigers at Sydney Football Stadium, two of the most exciting players in the competition were asked how they viewed each other. But while both expressed admiration for their opponent’s skills, neither had an idea how to shut the other out of the contest.
‘‘The best thing about Benji is his second-phase play and the way he keeps the defensive line guessing all the time,’’ Hayne said yesterday.
‘‘Obviously, our line defence and line speed will be important and we’ll need to try to pressure him … but we can’t let him play much because when he’s in the zone he’s hard to stop.’’
And vice versa.
‘‘Everyone knows how much of a freak he is, and how talented he is,’’ Marshall said of Hayne. ''He’s just one of those players that people want to play with and are scared to play against.
‘‘There’s everything to fear when it comes to Jarryd. Just the stuff he can do with the ball … there’s a lot of things you’ve got to shut down, giving him less time with the ball and trying to shut him down earlier, but it’s hard to shut a player down when they have so many good qualities, and Jarryd’s just one of those guys where you’ve got to be on the balls of your feet every time.’’
The two played with each other in the All Stars match earlier this year, giving Hayne a new respect for someone he had only ever played against.
‘‘When you train with great players you can pick up on why they’re so good,’’ the Eel said. ‘‘It always seems that when you train with them they do a few tricks you haven’t seen on TV.’’
Which, according to Marshall, all points to a ‘‘match to remember’’ tonight. The last time they were on the field at NRL level, the pair produced brilliance - Marshall with a flick and Hayne with a chip - and the game was a classic. The Eels prevailed and surged to the grand final.
‘‘We always seem to have good clashes against each other,’’ Marshall said. ''At last year’s game, the atmosphere was unbelievable. It was quite a blur, it went so fast. I remember Jarryd’s chip-and-chase pretty clearly because it won the game for them. It was a great spectacle.
‘‘I think [tonight’s] will be a game to remember. It could be one of those games that defines a season.’’
It is clearly a match that has many on edge. Tigers coach Tim Sheens, facing a one-from-three opening should his team succumb to the Eels, was eager to play up the pressure on Hayne but, equally, to play down his form. When asked yesterday whether Hayne was back to his best, he said: ‘‘I wouldn’t say that, but he had a very good second half of football [against Manly]. The hype around Jarryd is more pressure on Jarryd.’’
The referees are likely to feel the pinch as much as the players on such a stage. The Tigers have been concentrating on their discipline this week, having hardly tasted success with the two officials involved in tonight’s clash.
The Tigers have won just 12 of 34 clashes under Tony Archer, and one match from six under Matt Cecchin. The Eels, comparatively, have a 50 per cent or higher record under both.