The NRL should have stepped in sooner instead of allowing the Payne Haas contract saga to turn into a three-ring circus.
Two years ago the NRL’s new head-honcho, Peter V’landys, said publicly he would seriously investigate players breaking contracts to go to a rival club on bigger dollars.
Well, this year we have seen several cases of this happening again, with Josh Addo-Carr walking out on Melbourne to join NRL strugglers Canterbury Bulldogs on a much bigger contract.
Now we have the game’s premier prop wanting an immediate release from the Broncos, presumably to accept a big-money offer from a rival NRL club.
In the past few days, the richly talented young forward has tried to explain his actions in seeking an immediate release from his contract with Brisbane, which doesn’t expire until the end of 2024.
It’s understood Haas believes he does not receive the same leniency for some of his off-field indiscretions as some of his teammates.
This week he has come out publicly in an attempt to repair the damage to his reputation, denying money is the reason behind his release request, claiming he wanted a longer deal with Brisbane.
Haas has been labelled “greedy and selfish” by some critics.
Last Friday he was repeatedly booed by the Broncos faithful almost every time he touched the football.
Understandably, Brisbane has declined his request for an immediate release.
But they remain quietly confident they can still broker a satisfactory deal with the 22-year-old that would keep him at the club for the next 5-6 years.
Haas, who is reportedly on $800,000 a season, with an increase up to $1.2 million in a few years, is also reported to have demanded “bailout” clauses be included in any new contract that Brisbane must make the top eight and top four, or he walks out the door.
The whole issue has become very messy and the reaction of angry Brisbane fans at Suncorp Stadium clearly rocked and shocked him.
After the game, he tried to quell the wave of emotion against him by declaring his preference was still to “remain with the Broncos”.
If that’s true, then he can end all the drama with one stroke of the pen.
It may mean a few fewer dollars than other clubs like the cashed-up Rooster and Gold Coast Titans are willing to throw at him, but in sport, there is often a lot more important things than a few extra dollars in your pocket.
His contract wrangle being played out in the public arena is turning ugly and is not a good look for the game.
It needs to be the catalyst for changes to how managers, with dollar signs in their eyes, manipulate players in their dealings with clubs.
The NRL is believed to be still looking at a possible transfer window for players to negotiate new deals, similar to the AFL, but the Rugby League Players Association is not in favour, claiming it is a restraint of trade.
V’landys, who is also involved in Australian horse racing, is regarded as a visionary and a problem solver.
He carried horse racing through Covid and also got rugby league back on the playing field last year when the game looked in deep trouble.
He needs to come up with a solution because fans are becoming increasingly frustrated and turned off by players signing with rival clubs mid-way through the season.
The rules allow for negotiations to take place with a player who has less than 11 months remaining on his existing contract.
That’s not the case with Payne Haas.
Much of the time a player is unaware of the wheeling and dealing until his manager informs him what he has done.
Broncos coach Kevin Walters remains confident the club’s management, headed by first-year CEO Dave Donaghy and former Brisbane player Ben Ikin, can convince Haas his best option is to stay put with the club, which has turned it fortunes around with a promising young roster that could easily win a premiership in the next few years.
Haas entered NSW State of Origin camp in Sydney yesterday with his future still clouded.
He has assured Blue’s coach Brad Fittler he can block out the noise around him and produce his best for NSW on Wednesday night.
It won’t be easy because as the game’s number one prop his contract dramas will remain a hot topic.
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