Just days after his hasty exit proposal rocked the Broncos, restless Brisbane fans united en masse to derail Payne Haas for the first time in his NRL career.
Reportedly unloved and underpaid, the reverberating boos from a 32,000-strong crowd that accompanied his every carry, if anything, proved his once glowing status had fallen below that of Paul Gallen.
When the Titans jumped to a seemingly unassailable 24-4 lead five minutes before halftime, Haas’ surprise ransom request not only looked to have ended Brisbane’s run of five consecutive wins but also the club’s road to redemption after several difficult seasons.
The fact Brisbane regrouped and stormed to victory confirms a newfound resolve and a steely identity, one that may yet be broken if this latest saga isn’t resolved in the coming weeks.
Signed until 2024 on a reported $750,000-a-season, Haas has to be the highest paid prop in the competition. So much so that it makes you wonder if it’s the 22-year-old waving his arms for a bulked-up deal, or those of a money-hungry new manager.
There’s no doubt Haas is the best front-rower going around, but that doesn’t guarantee team unity, and right now, some believe his position is untenable.
Corey Parker, a Broncos premiership winner and 300-gamer, says Haas’ request is out of line and wants the club to release him immediately.
Parting ways with a player who has won the award as the club’s best for the past three seasons would irk plenty, especially for a youngster with a decade left in his legs.
Kevin Walters is adamant he won’t be released from his current contract and remains confident a resolution can be reached with Haas’ management.
Reading between the lines, there’s a feeling Haas is nothing more than a naive pawn in another man’s rush to fill his own pockets.
Ben Ikin, in his new role as head of football for the Broncos, should call it for what it is: highway robbery. And in what should be a favourable closure, look for him to prove his own worth and outsmart team Haas to honour what was signed long ago.
Further south, Manly’s fortunes and those of their star fullback Tom Trbojevic couldn’t be more contrasting. Signed until the end of 2025 on a deal believed to be north of $1 million-a-season, there’s no doubting the Dally M Medalist remains loyal to the maroon-and-white.
But sidelined for the rest of the year with another long-term injury, if there was to be a concern over commitment, it would lie with Sea Eagles management. By season’s end, the Ferrari with the frailty of a VN Commodore will have started in just 44 of 97 games since the beginning of 2019.
As far as tough conversations on the northern beaches go, any sign of a split would be next level on the nuclear fallout that accompanied the departure of Glenn Stewart to South Sydney.
Turbo will be 26 years old in 2023, and still blessed with time for a sustainable change of fortune. The fact the likes of Benji Marshall and Test cricket captain Pat Cummins overcame years of heartache provides comfort. But at current rates, the Manly salary cap is snookered.
The Sea Eagles’ dedication in last Thursday’s loss to Melbourne never wavered, but without the intimidating presence of Trbojevic, once again, their attack spluttered at best.
It’s been that way since 2019 when injury reduced his season to just 12 games. In that time, juniors like Haumole Olakau’atu have risen through the ranks, and with more on the way, retention could be problematic. The fact their highest-priced star is more often than not parked up only adds to the complexity.
One thing is for certain: there’s no scope for a brazen Haas-like grab for cash. If anything, the pressure is on Turbo to give back, if not time on the park, then money off his bottom line.
Because at the current rate, Manly are feast or famine and face the prospect of not only losing fans in the down-time but a much wider marketability.
Would it be offensive to ask Turbo to take a pay cut, and furthermore, would it pass NRL scrutiny?
Kieran Foran took a pay cut to revive an injury-prone career. Trbojevic’s circumstances are slightly different, but for Manly, it’s an unfortunate situation that at the very least deserves to be addressed.