The Courier-Mail

He’s on the roster, but Jarryd has one huge hurdle sitting next to him

- NICK WALSHAW

JARRYD Hayne sits at the right hand of his biggest rival.

He and Bruce Ellington, the incumbent 49ers punt returner, share adjoining lockers at San Francisco headquarte­rs.

It can get a little awkward at times.

Like after Friday’s final preseason game, a 14-12 win over San Diego at Levi’s Stadium.

When, with journalist­s encircling Hayne at his locker, Ellington sat just outside the crush and said: “Hey, I’m here ... I’m here too, you know?”

There remains a giant question mark over whether the 27year-old code convert will make the field in the club’s season opener next Tuesday.

The reason for that is 24year-old Ellington.

The South Carolina product – a guy who initially dreamt of playing in the NBA – who, when questioned recently about returning punts this season, replied: “Me? Of course I want to do that.”

But as for who gets the gig, head coach Jim Tomsula is not saying.

However, it is thought the locker room neighbours, along with DeAndrew White, will be left to battle it out.

Another early contender, Reggie Bush, is set to be used exclusivel­y at running back.

When asked the possibilit­y of the Australian returning punts in the opener against the Minnesota Vikings in Santa Clara, Tomsula replied: “Um, I don’t want to mislead anybody.

“When it comes to specifics, I’m not going into those areas, not right now.

“We’ve got some guys in that position who are pretty competitiv­e. ‘‘We’ve got options there.” While Aussie eyes were fixated on Hayne in that final exhibition game against the Chargers, Ellington was building himself a collection of 151 yards.

On three punt returns, the American made almost a third of his total. His one kick return was 21 yards.

Quarterbac­k Dylan Thompson also found him on a slant route for what would eventually be a 70-yard touchdown – 60 of which came after the catch.

 ??  ?? LOCKER ROOM RIVALRY: Jarryd Hayne on the burst; and (inset) the lockers issued to Hayne and Ellington.
LOCKER ROOM RIVALRY: Jarryd Hayne on the burst; and (inset) the lockers issued to Hayne and Ellington.
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