Panthers lock Trent Merrin is the latest player to weigh in on Jarryd Hayne's return to the NRL, admitting he always thought his former NSW Blues teammate would come back to rugby league.
Hayne announced on Wednesday morning that he had signed a two-year deal with the Gold Coast Titans effective immediately, and would be considered for selection as early as this weekend's match against the Warriors.
The former Parramatta Eels star returned to Australia after a season with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL, as well as a short stint with Fiji's Rugby Sevens squad that ended with him missing out on Olympics selection.
His return will be a massive boon for the game, with the two-time Dally M Medal winner set to join a Gold Coast side already on the rise in 2016.
"I was a bit surprised. I always knew he'd come back to rugby league," Merrin said.
"I think you can't stay away from it for too long – it's the greatest game to play in – and it's great for the 'Goldy' to get a player like they do.
"They're definitely playing some great footy. They've got some great recruits like Nathan Peats who has gone there now and he's been great for them, and Konrad Hurrell as well. To throw 'Hayensy' in a team like that is a positive for their club."
The Panthers will travel to the Gold Coast in Round 25 in what could very well decide both team's finals chances, but Merrin isn't worried about whether Hayne could possibly derail Penrith's quest for a top eight berth.
"It doesn’t really bother me to be honest," the 26-year-old said.
"It's probably harder to go into a team so late in a season to fit into it rather than what everyone thinks is going to happen straight away.
"He's a great player but there is a system that you need to be a part of for a few [weeks] to really get comfortable.
"Whatever it is will be, but I'm concentrating on us. It doesn't really bother me what's going on at different clubs. I'm just focusing on the role we need to play to get ourselves in a great position to be in."
This article first appeared on NRL.com.