Payne Haas is one of the NRL’s best. The State of Origin representative and four-time Brisbane Broncos player of the year led the Dally M Medal points table when voting went behind closed doors this season.
But in an alternate universe, he could have been wearing Warriors colours on Saturday night, rather than Broncos.
In 2016, Hass blew experienced NRL forwards “out of the water” during a trial according to a former Warriors coach.
It didn’t result in him signing a professional contract with the Auckland-based side - he signed a three-year deal with Brisbane late in 2016 and made his debut in 2018 - but he credits the Warriors with introducing him to the ins and outs of professional rugby league.
“It was a good learning curve for me,” he said on 9News, “It was my first taste of what NRL players do on a day-to-day [basis] and I was about 15 years old going in there and did a few weeks of pre-season with them.”
The Australian international representative says his short stint with the Warriors opened his eyes to what it takes to be a professional.
“It was pretty cool and just opened my eyes on how to be a professional and lots of credit to them, they opened my eyes and it was pretty cool to see.”
The opportunity arose through his school, Keebra Park State High School, which has produced a glittering array of rugby league alumni including Benji Marshall, Reece Walsh and the Warriors’ own Te Maire Martin.
Andrew McFadden was the Warriors coach in 2016. Haas credits him with helping his development even in such a short time.
“It was a bit of an opportunity at our school at that time and Andrew McFadden was a coach then and he was a pretty good dude and helped me out a lot being a young kid over there in Auckland.”
One of the most intriguing storylines ahead of the Warriors v Broncos semifinal will be the match-up between Haas and Addin Fonua-Blake, the latter of which has recaptured his best form that enticed the Warriors to sign him and established himself as one of the premiere props in the competition.
Haas he knows he’s got to be ready for what Fonua-Blake will throw at him.
“He’s been one of the form props in the comp this year - I love these kind of challenges so it’s going to be a good challenge this Saturday and I’ve got to be up for it.”
Will Toogood is an Online Sports Editor for the NZ Herald. He has previously worked for Newstalk ZB’s digital team and at Waiheke’s Gulf News covering sport and events.