Parramatta Eels skipper Tim Mannah has dubbed all 199cm and 110kg of Kane Evans the potential missing ingredient in his club’s upcoming Telstra Premiership charge.
While all the hype has focused on Evans’s Fijian teammate Jarryd Hayne in the pre-season, the towering forward’s arrival at Parramatta adds a much-needed big body to a pack that punched above its weight in 2017.
In a competition increasingly populated by giants masquerading as front-rowers, the likes of Mannah (184 cm), Nathan Brown (185cm) and Suaia Matagi (179cm) stand shorter than most of their rivals in the middle.
Teammates Daniel Alvaro (190cm) and Siosaia Vave (188cm) are merely par for the course when it comes to the NRL’s tall timber.
Evans has arrived at Parramatta amid plenty of expectation given his reputation as a future NSW Origin prospect and the lucrative three-year deal that lured him from the Sydney Roosters last year.
A sickening broken wrist Evans suffered in Fiji’s World Cup opener – where he “heard my bones break” – has hampered his first Eels pre-season.
But the 26-year-old is still expected to push for a spot in Brad Arthur’s 17 for the season-opener against the Penrith Panthers on March 11, offering a welcome point of difference, according to Mannah.
“He’s really handy for us,” Mannah said of Evans.
“It’s been well documented last year about our forward pack having one similar body shape.
“I think he’ll add a different dimension. Along with Tony Williams as well he’s a bit more of a taller, bigger body.”
Hayne has been the subject of unwanted scrutiny since 43-year-old coach Brad Arthur beat home the majority of his squad in a 5km obstacle course.
Mannah however, echoed the sentiments of Brad Takairangi in lauding Hayne’s application since returning to the Eels, declaring this the most committed he has seen his superstar teammate in over a decade playing and training together.
“Jarryd’s been good, his attitude’s been unreal,” Mannah said.
“I’ve played with him for many years and this is the most dedicated I’ve seen him to his training in terms of doing extra work in the gym.”
Once the be all and end all at Parramatta, Hayne’s star has fallen so far in the past 18 months that he is accepting an estimated $700,000 pay cut with the one-year deal he signed last December to return to his junior club.
As one of Hayne’s closest friends and now his captain, Mannah has noticed a previously unseen maturity in the 29-year-old, but admits a tumultuous stint at the Gold Coast Titans had at times taken its toll.
“There’s a human side to (Hayne) as well,” Mannah said.
“Anyone who goes through what he has in the last 12 months it has an effect at some point.
“He has done a good job though, whenever it comes to football and getting to work he switches into work mode and does a great job for us.
“If he is going through a fair bit, he hides it well and he’s been doing a great job for us.”