Titans blunder costs NRL’s hottest property
BRISBANE sensation Payne Haas quit the Titans to join Queensland rivals the Broncos following revelations the Gold Coast sensationally banned him from training for his school team.
As Haas prepares to face Bulldogs enforcers David Klemmer and Aaron Woods on Thursday at Suncorp Stadium in just his second NRL game, the truth behind his move to the Broncos has come to light.
In a recruitment bungle that could come back to haunt the Titans, the club lost the NRL's hottest front-row property after attempting to block Haas from playing for powerhouse Keebra Park High.
Perhaps the most farcical element is that Keebra Park - which has produced 31 NRL players including Tigers whiz Benji Marshall - is the code's top league nursery in the Titans' backyard.
Haas departed the Titans in mysterious circumstances in 2015, spending a year with the Warriors, but father Gregor detailed how his hulking 117kg son was snapped up by Broncos coach Wayne Bennett.
"The Titans tried to stop him training with Keebra Park," Haas senior said.
"I won't name names but when Payne was 15, he started training with the Titans under-20s and that's when they said, 'You are with us now, you can't train with Keebra'.
"Payne was really hurt by that. Keebra Park was his school and he loved playing with his school mates.
"He decided to go to New Zealand for a year, but he was missing home and when he spoke with Wayne Bennett, that was the X-factor in getting him to the Broncos."
While Haas is now committed to Brisbane, he still lives on the Gold Coast with his parents. The Haas family home is just a 10-minute drive from the Titans' home ground at Robina's Cbus Super Stadium.
Long-serving Keebra Park coach Greg Lenton, who presided over the school's league program for 27 years, believes Haas should never have been lost to the Titans.
"We've always had those issues with the Titans," he said.
"We had a link with the Wests Tigers for 13 years and the Titans probably felt there was a clash (when Haas entered the Titans' ranks).
"Some of the clubs can get paranoid thinking we will send Gold Coast kids to other clubs.
"Personally, I would have loved to see Payne at the Titans. He's as good a young prop as I've seen. He's a local kid and probably should still be in a Titans jumper."
Former Titans recruitment chief Jamie Mathiou was employed at the club when Haas quit. He defended the club's handling of the affair.
"We wanted to keep Payne Haas," he said. "I know nothing about Payne being banned from training for Keebra Park. I certainly never told him he couldn't train for Keebra.
"Whether someone else told him I don't know but I always had a high opinion of Payne and hoped he would stay at the club.
"When the NRL took over the club, everyone's contracts had to be signed over and we offered Payne a new deal. His management chose not to sign a new deal. We spoke to the family about staying at the Titans but they decided to go elsewhere."
Haas, still just 18, said he had found a home at Red Hill.
"I was at the Titans for a year but some things didn't go right there," he said.
"There were some personal reasons behind why I left. I don't want to say too much except that I'm happy at the Broncos now."