Brisbane have been left shell-shocked, with star prop Payne Haas formally approached by Rugby Australia (RA) officials keen to tempt him to switch to the 15-man code.
Ahead of the side’s match against South Sydney on Friday night, News Corp revealed that RA supremo Hamish McLennan had approached the Haas camp.
It would be a bombshell code switch for the superstar prop, whose form to start the season has been so impressive that he sits two points clear at the top of the Dally M Medal leaderboard.
No formal offer has been put on the table yet, but he is on the top of McLennan’s burgeoning hit list of players he wants to coax away from the NRL.
‘Payne (Haas) could definitely be wearing Wallaby gold. We really like Payne. He has a strong rugby pedigree and it’s probably time for him to spread his wings and do something really special,’ he said.
Broncos prop Payne Haas has been approached by Rugby Australia officials to switch codes
Haas’ father Gregor (right, pictured with his son at the 2019 Dally M Medal) has admitted that switching codes is a very real possiblity
Haas played rugby as a junior, and RA’s approach to the star will ramp up pressure on the Broncos to hold onto their prop – having already knocked back a request to release him from his contract last season.
The 195cm, 117kg man mountain is still only 23, and could thrive in the second row or at number eight in the 15-man code – and his father Gregor recently admitted a code switch is a very real possibility.
‘Rugby is something Payne would seriously look at,’ he told the Courier Mail.
‘It’s no lie about rugby. They are definitely keen … there’s a few clubs overseas who are keen. The world is a big place.
‘Payne loves rugby league and the Broncos, but he has played rugby as a kid.
People bag rugby in Australia but they don’t look at the bigger picture. The NRL is very small compared to rugby, which is a world game.’
Off-contract at the end of next year, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in a Lions tour in 2025 and at a home World Cup in 2027 in a tantilising prospect for any player – including Haas.
Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has approached the Haas camp in an effort to get the Broncos coach to switch codes
And McLennan knows it. He said he would not be ‘scared off by aggressive rugby league types’ (read: NRL chair Peter V’landys).
‘There is a lot of debate about (NRL) players coming to us and we can offer an experience that rugby league can’t. We are a world game,’ McLennan said.
‘At rugby, we’ve hidden our light under a bushel for too long against an aggressive competitor (the NRL).
‘The Lions in 2025 is a real tour and convincing the Australian Government to host the Rugby World Cup in 2027, the third biggest sporting event in the world, is real.’
Someone who understands very acutely what Haas will need to consider when thinking about switching codes is his ex-teammates Ben Te’o.
Te’o switched codes mid-career, eventually representing England under now-Wallabies coach Eddie Jones.
Could Payne Haas (left) follow in the footsteps of Roosters superstar Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii (right) and switch codes?
Despite hoping he remains in the NRL and wins a premiership with Brisbane, Te’o said he had no doubt Haas could succeed in union, albeit with a few initial struggles.
‘I have no doubt Payne would succeed in rugby because of the God-given gifts he has got, I believe he is one of a kind,’ he said.
‘But I think he has unfinished business in rugby league.
‘The other thing to consider is it’s not as simple as chucking on a Wallabies jersey and taking on the British and Irish Lions.
‘It’s a foreign game and Payne would have a lot to learn.’
McLennan, Jones and RA have already pulled off a huge coup, convincing Roosters whiz kid Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii- a rugby union prodigy as a youngster – to switch codes at the end of the 2024 NRL season on an astonishing $4.8million deal.
You get the feeling it is just the first of many.