NRL rivals circle Broncos prodigy
MELBOURNE are eyeing off Broncos monster Payne Haas as NRL rivals prepare to table staggering offers of $1.5 million to lure the teenage sensation away from Red Hill.
Haas has become the most sought-after young forward in the code with five NRL clubs lodging expressions of interest in the 117kg front-row giant.
Rated the Broncos' new-age version of legendary prop Petero Civoniceva, Haas is off-contract next year, meaning his management cannot receive formal offers until November 1.
But that hasn't stopped NRL rivals formulating succession plans to poach Haas.
Incredibly, a number of Sydney-based clubs are willing to table three-year deals worth $500,000-a-season for a rookie front-rower who has yet to play a single minute of NRL.
The Storm's interest in Haas adds extra spice to Friday's clash against the Broncos, who have named the 18-year-old in their extended 21-man squad for the showdown at Suncorp Stadium.
Haas' manager Chris Orr said yesterday it is premature to enter negotiations with NRL rivals but confirmed the Broncos face major competition to secure the Australian Schoolboys young gun.
"Payne certainly attracts attention for all the right reasons," Orr said.
"He is a super athlete and a tremendous young man. All 16 NRL clubs and even some US colleges attempted to secure his signature coming out of school two years ago, however the Broncos won the race.
"Staying close to his family played a major part in Payne's decision.
"Although we are not looking too far ahead, interest is rising quickly again for Payne. We've had interest from clubs, but I want him to focus on his football
"Under the rules, we can't hold negotiations with other clubs. Payne is happy at the Broncos and because he is under contract for next year, it's a bit early to be having discussions with other parties.
"If he was to enter the player market, I'm sure Payne would again encounter a high level of interest. We will revisit his contract situation in November."
Haas, who turns 19 in December, has been a revelation since joining Brisbane's full-time squad in pre-season.
Despite his hulking frame, he won a fitness time-trial in December, beating Brisbane's outside backs, and is working on his game with feeder-club Wynnum Manly in the Intrust Super Cup.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has come under pressure to blood Haas in the NRL this season, but he is wary of the 196cm rookie being targeted by rival packs.
While NRL clubs are lining up to snare Haas, Bennett is confident of keeping him, with the young prop admitting being mentored by the super coach was a key factor in his decision to join Brisbane.
"I feel I have a connection to Wayne, he's been great for me," Haas said.
"I'm really happy at the Broncos and there's no rush for me to play NRL, at the moment I'm learning all the time."