Jarryd Hayne is to be investigated by the NRL integrity unit after being filmed at a party looking very much like he was handing over a $5,000 wad of cash to an accused Hells Angels bikie enforcer.
That's the official version of the news this Tuesday. The deeper issue is that Brand Hayne is on the nose.
Jarryd Hayne is not a bad apple, especially by NRL standards. But the public no longer believes in the version of Jarryd Hayne the man himself is selling. Brand Hayne is in trouble, and Jarryd Hayne knows it.
In the immediate months after his 2014 announcement that he would try his hand in America's NFL, Hayne turned what was essentially a sportsman's journey to one of the world's most elite sporting leagues into a narrative of wild-eyed dreaming and trying to be your best self. Brand Hayne was born.
As we wrote in May this year, Hayne was Australian aspirationalism writ large. Everywhere we turn these days, we are bombarded with the "dare to dream" and "be your best self" message. Hayne was the living embodiment of that. Brand Hayne soared in value.
Adding to his appeal, the journey wasn't all about Jarryd, or so it seemed at the time. Hayne lived by the verse on his Twitter handle, Proverbs 27 17. It reads:
As iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another.
The verse was Hayne's way of saying that his sporting and personal journey was as much as those around him as it was about Jarryd Hayne. It spoke of selflessness, camaraderie, humility. Core Brand Hayne values.
But how different is Jarryd Hayne from Brand Hayne?
Well, he ended up at a party where there were bikies, despite a year in which the NRL has repeatedly warned its players to stay away from known criminals. Iron sharpens iron. Men shape men. Are these the sort of men we imagined sharpening Jarryd Hayne? Is this the brand we bought into?
He was also pictured hanging out with West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle, not long after Gayle decided that an Australian journalist doing her job as a TV interviewer was in fact just a woman begging to be asked out. Is that the sort of brand you'd be proud to display on your shelf?
Hayne tried to muscle his way into the Fijian Sevens rugby team (his dad was born there), professing his love for Olympic ideals. In truth, he needed a job and some spotlight to keep the ever-growing band of Brand Hayne sponsors happy.
Brand Hayne loves a cause. As an example, Hayne admirably tweeted his support for his former San Francisco 49ers teammate and anti-racism campaigner Colin Kaepernick.
But Brand Hayne's commitment to a cause seemingly softens when there's money on offer. Hayne took the big bucks on the Gold Coast over Parramatta -- his scandal-riddled bomb crater of a former NRL club -- which was crying out for a saviour to press the reset button on the entire club culture.
Speaking of saviours, Brand Hayne projects itself as god-fearing, but instead just seems to have a god complex. Here's what Hayne said at a press conference in August, after speaking about the media and how their stories "are not about truth or facts anymore".
"When you read the bible you realise everyone hated Jesus, so you've gotta put that in perspective as well and realise how much he stood up, and was still him. He could have easily lost the plot and lost his shit but he kept it together."
Brand Hayne doesn't just believe in god. He thinks he's got plenty in common with him.
The fact is, Jarryd Hayne is just another sporting mercenary these days. Strip away all that branding and that's what's left. And if the brand wants to keep a prominent location on the supermarket shelf of Australian sporting talent, it could start by keeping better company.Suggest a correction