League: Jarryd Hayne's value to the Titans

Fans flocked to see Jarryd Hayne's return to the NRL for the Titans against the Warriors earlier this month. Photo / Photosport.
Fans flocked to see Jarryd Hayne's return to the NRL for the Titans against the Warriors earlier this month. Photo / Photosport.

He's gone from Parramatta fullback to NFL aspirant, San Fransisco 49ers punt-returner to Rio Olympics rugby sevens wannabe. Now he's back in the NRL - all in the space of two years.

But what is Jarryd Hayne really worth to the Gold Coast Titans?

Is it just a bone-crunching tackle on Bodene Thompson and a couple of pieces for the highlights reels? How about a match-winning field goal in his old hometown to keep his team's finals hopes alive?

As it turns out, that's not even the beginning.

One look at Hayne's first game at the Titans - with or without the 'red button' - told you the fans want to see him.

In the hours after Hayne's signing, ticket sales for the Titans' game against the Warriors boomed by $40,000 - and it didn't stop there. Never before in the history of the NRL has the reintroduction of one player to the game created such an increase in crowd numbers.

The 25,109 fans who streamed into Cbus Super Stadium three weeks ago formed not only the club's biggest crowd since 2010, but more than doubled the Titans' average home game attendance this season.

While it might seem like that only provides the players with more support, based on average ticket prices it also gifts the club at least an extra $200,000 before outgoings are taken into account. It's exciting given the club still has one more home game to play this season, plus another 24 across Hayne's next two seasons on the Gold Coast.

But it doesn't end with ticket sales.

"An extra 10,000-15,000 people coming through the gates obviously results in ticket sales and merchandise sales and food and beverage and all those sorts of things," Gold Coast Marketing Manager Adam Spackman told Big League. "But it's also exposure for our brand, so the whole value of our match day just goes up, which is great."

While the Titans are still yet to calculate the exact figure made on the Round 21 clash with the Warriors based on purchases by fans while inside the ground, Spackman said the increases were notable.

"There was a substantial increase in merchandise sales. It was a massive amount of growth."

The obsession with the 'Hayne plane' reaches far further than the shores of the Gold Coast.

As a non-Sydney team with no recent finals experience, the Titans are traditionally one of the lowest-pulling teams in the NRL when it comes to away crowds. Yet the week after Hayne's debut, in his original hometown of Campbelltown, the ground recorded its biggest crowd in five years when 16,783 fans turned out to see Hayne boot his new team to a one-point victory.

It's not just at the grounds that Hayne is a big crowd-puller. The 299,000 viewers who tuned into Hayne's opening game on Fox Sports made it the network's most-watched 2pm NRL game ever, eclipsing the average of 187,000 for the time-slot this year.

The week following, Fox Sports' 3pm Saturday time-slot, with an average of 200,000 viewers, drew 243,000 fans for the clash at Campbelltown. All that, despite the fact the Gold Coast was averaging just 216,000 viewers per match at the start of August.

"It's great for our sponsorship and from a broadcast perspective as well," Spackman says. "If there's interest in the club from the general public, that will do us no harm in getting favourable time-slots."

Viewership is just one reason why the Titans can be sure they'll receive more than just the two matches they played on free-to-air television this year in 2017 - and with that comes with an average of 800,000 extra viewers.

"The added interest in the club generates more exposure and the more exposure we get, the more exposure our brands get as a result."

IT'S hard to believe just 18 months ago the Titans were a club in complete disarray. With no major sponsor, they were forced to hand their licence over to the NRL with question marks hanging over their head about whether they could afford to pay player and staff wages.

Fast-forward a year-and-a-half and the Titans have just signed a multimillion-dollar five-year deal to retain Aquis as the club's major sponsor, while a number of other companies will be knocking on the door to join their portfolio at increased prices as a result of the exposure the Titans could previously only have dreamed of.

For so long the Gold Coast has been a graveyard for rugby league teams - best shown by the three franchises that came and went between 1988 and 1998. But now, with the acquisition of Hayne and one of the most exciting young spines in the competition, fan support and membership numbers are all but guaranteed to rise in 2017.

"He's a great player on the field, so we can use him and generate more interest in the club and have more people come to the game. Hopefully that will result in an increase in membership for 2017, because there will be more confidence in the club and interest in it."

The exact value of Hayne won't be known for a while - probably not until his time at the Titans comes to an end.

But as Spackman explains, it will far exceed his reported $1.2 million-per-year contract figure.

"If there's more interest in the club, there will be higher merchandise sales, membership sales and retail ticketing - all those sorts of things will definitely increase. That's why you recruit big-name players."

The legacy of Hayne's move to the Gold Coast will almost certainly reap a massive windfall for the Titans, both on and off the field.

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