NRL 2022: Wayne Bennett rules out signing Payne Haas to Dolphins, after Brisbane Broncos release request
The man who first delivered Payne Haas to the Broncos, Wayne Bennett, has revealed whether he would pay $1 million to poach Brisbane’s controversial prop.
Wayne Bennett has ruled out reuniting with Payne Haas with the Dolphins coach refusing to pay $1 million to poach Brisbane’s controversial prop to spearhead the NRL’s 17th team.
Haas dropped a bombshell on Wednesday night when his management contacted the Broncos seeking an immediate release for the NSW Origin enforcer to test his value on the open market.
The Broncos have stood firm, insisting Haas will be made to honour his existing three-year contract, which expires at the end of 2024, but there is a feeling the forward’s future at Red Hill will become increasingly untenable.
Should Haas’ new management continue to agitate for a release, there are at least five NRL rivals who are ready to pounce, having expressed preliminary interest in Brisbane’s three-time Paul Morgan Medallist.
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The Dolphins have been flagged as a possible destination for Haas because of the new franchise’s proximity to the Broncos and his close ties to Bennett, who first lured the young gun to Red Hill in 2017.
Such was Bennett’s influence, Haas was poised to sign with Melbourne as a 16-year-old when he met with the super coach, whose pitch sealed his move to the Broncos.
But with Bennett now in charge at the NRL’s expansion newcomers, he will not be attempting to lure Haas to the Dolphins. Bennett declined to comment specifically on the Haas saga but confirmed he will not meet the prop’s asking price, which will reach $1.2 million for the 2025 season.
The Dolphins have already signed a host of premiership-winning forwards, including Storm trio Jesse and Kenny Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi, and cannot afford a $1 million outlay for Haas.
Last week, Bennett told News Corp he is turning his attention to other parts of the Dolphins’ roster after centre target Herbie Farnworth stayed loyal to the Broncos.
“We need to start signing some outside backs,” Bennett said. “I’m happy with who I’ve got in the forwards, but we need some halves and players who can score points, so that’s our priority.”
Earlier this season, Haas spoke of his regard for the 72-year-old Bennett, who handed the towering prop his NRL debut at the Broncos in 2018.
“Wayne’s reputation is massive,” Haas said in February on the eve of the 2022 premiership.
“When you have a guy like him calling and wanting me to sign, for a 16-year-old I was like geez, it’s Wayne Bennett, I should stay in Brisbane.
“I was so close to going to Melbourne. My dad wanted me to go to the Storm. I was about to jump on a plane to Melbourne. I had the contract papers and all that there ready to sign and then at the last minute Wayne Bennett called me.
“He talked about the Broncos and why he wanted to coach me and he managed to change my mind.
“We’ve gone through some tough times but I don’t regret my decision at all.”
The Broncos are bemused by Haas’ request for a release. Brisbane insiders say he has never been happier at training and has a renewed hunger in the wake of the Broncos’ resurgence this season under Kevin Walters.
Just three months ago, Haas told News Corp he was relishing his time at the Broncos and wanted to help break the club’s 16-year premiership drought.
Suddenly, he wants out of the club where he has dreamt of winning a title.
“I have a few more years on contract at the Broncos and I’m happy here,” he said. “There’s been a lot of talk (about his future) but I’m enjoying my time at the Broncos.
“The individual accolades are nice but I would rather win a comp and play finals footy.
“I have missed out the last two years and it sucks sitting there watching other teams play in the big sudden death games and lifting the NRL trophy.
“I would love to bring that to the Broncos. This is a special club and I know we have the young guys coming through here to get to the top. I want to help us build that legacy and make the Broncos successful again.”
BRONCOS’ BOMBSHELL MOVE TO BLOCK HAAS RELEASE REQUEST
—Peter Badel, Travis Meyn & Brent Read
Payne Haas’ $3.2 million pay dispute with the Broncos has taken an explosive twist with Brisbane rejecting his request for an immediate release.
In a development that rocked the Broncos, Haas - the club’s No.1 player - asked Brisbane bosses on Wednesday night for an immediate release from his current deal, which expires at the end of 2024.
But Broncos bosses are playing hardball and will force Haas to honour his contract. The Broncos prop will play against the Titans on Friday night, raising the prospect the club’s three-time Paul Morgan Medallist could be booed by his own Brisbane fans at Suncorp Stadium.
In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, the Broncos said: “Payne Haas is contracted to the Brisbane Broncos until the end of the 2024 NRL Season. The Club will not be entertaining a release.
“The club remains in ongoing discussions with Payne’s management about what the next phase looks like for him at the Broncos.
“That includes ongoing dialogue about an extension to his current contract.”
News Corp can reveal Haas, currently on $750,000 this season, has been locked in delicate talks with Broncos hierarchy for the past fortnight over an urgent update.
It is understood the NSW Origin enforcer’s new management wanted his salary increased to $1 million next season and in 2024, before a monster one-year extension for Haas to be paid $1.2 million in 2025.
When the Broncos advised Haas they could not afford that amount due to salary-cap constraints, the 22-year-old dropped a bombshell, informing Brisbane hierarchy he wanted out immediately.
Haas’ management emailed Broncos boss Dave Donaghy on Wednesday night formally advising the club they wanted a release to test his value on the open market.
A source close to negotiations confirmed Haas wants out of Brisbane immediately, with four NRL rivals ready to pounce on the NSW Origin enforcer.
“It’s correct, Payne Haas has asked for a release. He asked for it last night,” the source said.
“He’s been having contract issues with his manager. He asked for an upgrade, but the Broncos came back with a no, so Payne has said OK well I’d like a release.
“He just wants to get what he is worth. I think he will play against the Titans this week but he wants to leave now.
“He is a bit disappointed with how things have played out.”
Haas has been embroiled in a contract dispute with his former management that have hampered Brisbane’s attempt to extend their No.1 prop.
The Broncos board last year gave approval for Haas to be offered a six-year upgrade until the end of 2027, but Brisbane’s superstar front-rower was reluctant to sign the deal while he was embroiled in a legal battle with his former management.
Rumours sweeping league circles for months have suggested the Roosters are desperate to poach Haas as they prepare for life after Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, and are ready to pounce if Brisbane’s best player does not see a long-term future at Red Hill.
Now, with Haas taking affirmative action, the NRL player market will go into a frenzy as clubs vie for the code’s best prop.
A News Corp investigation last month into Haas’ contractual affairs shows Brisbane’s latest six-year offer stood to make him the first $1 million forward in the Broncos’ 34-year history.
The Broncos have had a galaxy of champion forwards throughout their decorated history, headlined by Shane Webcke, Petero Civoniceva, Glenn Lazarus, Gorden Tallis, Sam Thaiday, Andrew Gee, Brad Thorn, Corey Parker and Tonie Carroll.
But none were ever paid close to $1 million annually. Anthony Milford remains the only player since Brisbane’s premiership entry in 1988 to receive a seven-figure sum.
But if Haas was to sign on the dotted line, he would not only be Brisbane’s financial top dog, but the highest-paid middle-forward in the NRL today, eclipsing the likes of Jason Taumalolo ($1m), Andrew Fifita ($850,000), Addin Fonua-Blake ($850,000) and David Klemmer ($800,000).
News Corp had obtained details of Haas’ proposed new Broncos deal.
This season, Haas is on $750,000. Next year, the Blues bookend stands to pocket $850,000 and $950,000 in 2024. Should he ink the extension, Haas would enter the NRL’s elite $1 million club, earning $1.05 million for seasons 2025, 2026 and 2027.
Haas also has a club-approved sponsored car worth $25,000 annually.
In total, his Broncos package is valued at $5.85 million.
But those figures ultimately weren’t palatable to Haas. His new management believed he was worth $1 million now with a view to Haas being the highest-paid player in the game on $1.2 million in 2024.
The Broncos have Adam Reynolds and Kotoni Staggs on big-money deals and simply cannot afford to outlay $1 million-plus to keep Haas with a posse of Brisbane young guns coming through headed by Selwyn Cobbo and Ezra Mam.
Haas has recently joined the management stable of former NRL player Tyran Smith, the father of Storm centre Reimis, who has been gauging the prop’s value in the marketplace.
The Australian bookend has also been linked with the Bulldogs amid speculation Canterbury football boss Phil Gould held talks with the Haas camp during Magic Round in Brisbane.
Broncos coach Kevin Walters last month scoffed at suggestions the club is not paying Haas market rate.
“Everyone knows Payne and his value here to the club,” he said.
“We are really happy to have him here and we have him here for the next three years and I want to make sure Payne is happy playing here at the Broncos.
“I have never been concerned about the money and it won’t be an issue with money going forward.
“Payne’s value is what clubs want to pay for him. I’m very confident he will stay. He loves it here and I’m sure we can come to an agreement to keep him here.”
The elephant in the room is the Roosters. There is a view Haas is refusing to sign with the Broncos because of his relationship with his mentor Sonny Bill Williams, the Roosters legend who helped with the Brisbane prop’s conversion to Islam in 2019.
Haas insists there is no pressure from Sonny Bill to sign with the Roosters club with whom the Kiwi superstar won a premiership in 2013.
But the Roosters rarely miss out on their intended targets. And with veteran enforcer Waerea-Hargreaves off-contract at the end of 2023, the Bondi glamour club has identified Haas as a candidate to spearhead their engine room in the post-JWH era.
Former Broncos captain Corey Parker, who worked with Haas in an assistant’s capacity under ex-coach Anthony Seibold in 2019-20, said last month the prop is not merely chasing dollars, but premiership success.
“The challenge for the Broncos to keep Payne is real,” Parker said.
“There’s not much more they can do really. The Broncos have offered him a six-year deal that is reflective of where he is at. Payne could get 15 offers from other clubs, so then it’s not all about money anymore, it’s about opportunity and achievement.
“There is no way Haas is underpaid, and the deal he is being offered is a great deal, so if he leaves Brisbane, it won’t be because of the money.
“Payne is worth what someone is willing to pay him. I don’t think middle forwards should be paid $1 million because they don’t own the result, the playmakers do that. But if Payne can get $1 million from the Broncos or another club, good luck to him.
“When you first start in the game, your currency as a kid turns to how much you can get paid. Then you have ambitions to play rep footy, Origin, Australia.
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“The ultimate currency for a player is to win a premiership. So if Payne is getting well paid at the Broncos, which he is, then his burning ambition is simply one thing - can I win a premiership at this club?
“That’s the reality for the Broncos.”