Kevin Walters responds to Rugby Australia interest in Payne Haas

Rugby Australia is looming as the biggest threat to Brisbane's chances of sealing a club record deal for the NRL star.

Brisbane coach Kevin Walters sees no reason why Payne Haas would want to leave the NRL club despite Rugby Australia's interest. Pic: Getty

Brisbane coach Kevin Walters says he has "zero" concern around Payne Haas' future with the club, despite Rugby Australia's reported interest in poaching the NRL superstar. Haas' contract with the Broncos runs out at the end of 2024, and the club is locked in talked to offer the forward a bumper new deal that would represent the richest in Brisbane's history.

Haas - who is currently on around $850,000 this season - has been a wrecking ball up front for the Broncos, where he is leading the NRL in post-contact metres and offloads after seven rounds. Haas is also ranked second and fourth respectively for run metres and tackle busts, with Brisbane set to reward the 23-year-old with a bumper new three-year contract extension worth in excess of $1 million per season.

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However, it has emerged this week that Rugby Australia (RA) has the hulking prop firmly in its sights, having already signed Roosters young gun Joseph Suaalii on a lucrative deal starting in 2025. Haas is able to negotiate with rivals for 2025 from November 1 and would command a seven-figure salary as arguably the best prop in the NRL and the current joint-leader in the Dally M Medal race.

Just like they did with Suaalii, RA would likely try and tempt Haas to defect to the rival code by selling him on the prospect of playing for the Wallabies in a British & Irish Lions tour in 2025 and a home Rugby World Cup in Australia in 2027. Despite RA's global appeal and considerable financial muscle, Walters sees no reason why Haas would want to leave the club.

"Payne's been here when there has been some tough times," Walters said. "We're into some greener pastures at the moment and Payne is a big part of that.

"We look forward to him maintaining that, he's enjoying his footy, loving living in 'Brizzy'. We just need him to stay here, we want him to stay.

"It's about keeping Payne happy and making sure he's learning here and developing as a footballer, which I believe he is. It's up to Payne's management and our staff to sort a deal out.

"We've got zero real reason to think Payne wouldn't want to be here in a few years."

Brisbane determined to tie down Payne Haas long-term

The Broncos have already locked up Maroons star Patrick Carrigan, as well as young guns Jesse Arthars, Deine Mariner and coach Kevin Walters, in a promising development for the future of the club. Haas is the next priority for the Red Hill-based club and Broncos board member Darren Lockyer said last week that the club was doing everything in its power to keep Brisbane's three-time best-and-fairest winner.

Walters says while he can't foresee any issues in keeping the 23-year-old at Red Hill, he did concede that the deal might not be completed for another few weeks. "I'm very confident that will happen, it might take a few weeks but I'm sure that Payne wants to stay and we certainly want to keep him," Walters added.

Haas' imminent new deal comes after he was booed by his own fans at Suncorp Stadium last year when it emerged he'd requested a release from the club. The Broncos struggled at the start of 2022, and Haas wanted out.

Pictured here, Payne Haas celebrates a try for the Broncos against the Wests Tigers in the NRL.
Payne Haas celebrates a try for the Broncos in round five of the NRL against the Wests Tigers. Pic: Getty

However he later backflipped on his release request and admitted the response from fans had left him rattled. "I underestimated the public interest in my contract situation, so I want to put those discussions on hold and keep my focus where it needs to be," Haas said in a club statement. "I want the fans to know that they will get nothing but my best every time I pull on a Broncos jersey."

The rampaging prop's form in 2023 is all the more remarkable given he is currently observing Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar that requires Muslims to fast during daylight hours. "There are some minor changes to what he does with our coaching staff, particularly our performance staff," Walters explained.

"But really it's the mental side of things where Payne gets on top of things and he's been really good in that space. He's quite an incredible athlete, the way he maintains his fitness and physical presence on the field. It's a credit to him.

"He's well prepared again this week and I'm sure he's looking forward to what will be a great game tomorrow night." Walters' ladder-leading Broncos take on 2022 grand finalists Parramatta in Darwin on Friday night, chasing their seventh win in the first eight games.

with AAP

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