Broncos behemoth Payne Haas says the pressure he was under has eased now that a four-week suspension is behind him, but he has vowed to be "more professional" after failing to co-operate fully with the NRL Integrity Unit in the pre-season.
The 19-year-old prop was forced to sit out the opening four rounds of the season and fined $20,000 after he was suspended by Brisbane for not being forthcoming with the NRL Integrity Unit’s investigation into an off-field incident involving his family.
Haas has since appeared in court on charges of unlicensed driving and using a mobile phone while driving.
Off the field has been a battle for Haas, but on it he has been thriving.
He won the coach’s award and player’s player in consecutive weeks in his first two games back from suspension against the Wests Tigers and Canberra and has been Brisbane’s most consistent performed over the past four rounds, averaging 152 metres and 37 tackles per game.
When suspending Haas, Brisbane CEO Paul White acknowledged the "competing priorities" the teenager faced between his family’s interest and desires and that of the game, but insisted the Broncos also had a duty to protect the reputation of the game.
Haas acknowledged on Monday that, while young, he was not above the game. He gave credit to coach Anthony Seibold for guiding him through a tough period.
"I just have to be more professional," Haas said.
"I am a professional athlete … and the first thing [I learned] is [about] talking to people and not putting myself in situations like that.
"It was pretty hard but I had good people around me. It is a good environment at the Broncos.
"Anthony was pretty good. He spoke to me every day to see if I was alright. I’m just glad he had my back. All the pressure is off my shoulders now and it feels pretty good. I can just focus on what I love."
When Haas signed a six-year deal through to the end of 2024 last year former coach Wayne Bennett told NRL.com there was “no risk factor” due to Haas’s immense potential.
The expectations on Haas are huge but he welcomed the pressure, despite the side’s 13th placing on the ladder and scrutiny on his own performance each week.
"I don’t feel pressure. That is just a part of my job," Haas said.
"Pressure comes with being in a team like the Brisbane Broncos. It is not a bad feeling. It is good.
"There is a lot of outside noise but we have our little bubble here. As long as we keep it in our bubble and stay strong together I think things will turn."
Haas’s failings have cost Brisbane, a fact noted by Seibold recently when pointing to his costly missed tackles on Michael Chee Kam and John Bateman in consecutive weeks against the Tigers and Raiders.
"There are a few things I can be better at," Haas said.
"I need to work on my little effort areas. I have a lot to improve on."
Haas has already been named in the Emerging Blues squad and has put himself in the frame for Origin selection if not for this year then down the track.
Former Broncos and Maroons prop Petero Civoniceva was asked at a promotion for Magic Round whether Haas was ready for the Origin arena.
"When are you ready? He has already shown he is up to NRL standard and the amount of minutes he is playing against very experienced forward packs there is no doubt he wouldn’t look out of place in a State of Origin jersey," he said.
"Obviously I am a proud Queenslander, but for him as an individual I think he has been fantastic and his name needs to be in there."