5 January, 2018, 12:00 am
“If you don’t start asking football questions,” uttered Brad Arthur from the back of the rather large media scrum, “I am going to pull him.”
The thing is, though, only a handful of reporters at Jarryd Hayne’s first media conference on the first day of his second coming at his old club had any rugby league questions for him.
Most wanted to talk about the rape allegation that has been levelled against him in a civil lawsuit from a 25-year-old woman known only as Ms V.
It’s an all-too-common occurrence in footy these days: general news reporters asking about an off-field issue, rubbing shoulders with sports reporters, who need to cover off on both.
“If you want to talk about football, I am more than happy,” Hayne said after he was bombarded with questions that weren’t about football.
“I can’t talk about it. You can ask whatever you wanna ask, but I’ll avoid it and deflect it and talk about my lawyers. If you want to talk about football, I love being back at my childhood club, seeing the guys I’ve played footy with since I was a kid â€¦”
A footballer who is usually swimming in self-confidence, Hayne appeared nervous as he tried to “avoid and deflect” to his lawyers.
It was a curious scene.
Standing just over his right shoulder throughout the 10-minute grilling stood a snappily dressed young man — dark suit, tie, even a silver tie pin — who had earlier emerged from a shiny black BMW before walking through a hole in the wire fence at the Eels’ nondescript training ground in North Parramatta. He was later revealed to be an associate of Hayne’s lawyer, Ramy Qutami, and when Hayne finished avoiding and deflecting, the bloke with the tie-pin handed out media statements to reporters.
Along with another “unequivocal and vehement” denial of the allegations, the statement revealed that Hayne’s attorney in the US will be Mark Baute.
The name should ring a bell for followers of US sport and the NBA.
Baute successfully defended New York Knicks point-guard Derek Rose and two of his friends against rape allegations in an enormously publicised trial in 2016.
Baute reduced the woman to tears in the witness box and later wore accusations from many quarters of “slut shaming” her.
“Crocodile tears,” he said in an interview with The Guardian. Pretty easy to fake if you’re looking for 20 million bucks.”
Wednesday afternoon’s media opp was a perfect opportunity for Hayne to elaborate on the accusations being levelled at him from Ms V. He looked like he wanted to but wasn’t budging from the instructions of his legal team.
Fair enough: that’s what they are being paid for.
Still, he’s more than aware of the distraction this whole episode has been causing his old/new club since the story broke just before Christmas.
Arthur later told Fairfax Media it was Hayne’s idea to address the media on his first day back at the club he left in 2014 to pursue an NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers, the team he was playing for when the rape allegedly occurred.
“It was his idea to do it because it was best for the club and the team and not himself,” Arthur said.
“He phoned me and said, ‘I don’t want to put you through this so let’s deal with it’.
“He was keen to deal with it before New Year’s but I said let’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 even Hayne, although it will stop — for now — non-rugby league news crews doing live crosses during Eels training sessions.
“It’s just one of those things you gotta go through,” Hayne said.
“It’s a bit of adversity. As players we go through all sorts of things.
“This is the situation I’m in and we’ll go through it.”
Players do face all sorts of adversity – Hayne’s endured plenty, some of it of his own doing — but a high-profile civil lawsuit that could see him return to the US should it go to trial is something different altogether.