Challenge Laid Down To Captain Haas
He's been chased by NRL clubs, NFL clubs and has been likened to human wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo, but in 2017 Payne Haas earns the honour of captaining his state.
Still six months short of his 18th birthday, Haas is possibly the most talked-about youngster in Australian Rugby League. Standing at 194 centimetres and a huge 117 kilograms, it's easy to see why - and having already impressed at Holden Cup level this season, he earned a call-up to the NSW Under-18s side.
"A-lot of these guys [play Holden Cup], one called Payne Haas," assistant coach Danny Buderus tells NSWRL.com.au. "He’s up in Brisbane playing for the Broncos, he’s 17 and such a talent.
“He’ll be the captain - he plays 80 minutes in Holden Cup let alone in the 18s."
Haas, however, is as softly spoken as they come, and his elevation to the captaincy has been used as a personal challenge by coaching staff. After coming off the bench in the NSW Under-18s dominant victory last year, Haas was always a certainty for selection again in 2017 - but assistant coach Danny Buderus is excited to see how he can lead his teammates tomorrow night.
"That's the thing with him," Buderus explains. "He has so much ability, but we’ve tested him by naming him captain.
"We want to see the way he handles the week and handles the the game with the big ‘C’ next to his name. It’s only going to make him more confident for the future."
Lured to Wayne Bennett's Broncos late last year, Haas is the only member of the Under-18s side to have been picked north of the border, rather than the NSWRL's SG Ball competition. He is certainly eligible for NSW however, and Buderus relishes the chance to help turn the state's best juniors into future Origin representatives.
"It’s really good to be able to say you’ve seen these boys come through the grades," Buderus adds. "Our job is to see some of these young Blues players come through and represent the NRL but also represent their state.
"It’s a learning pathway for them and some of these guys have been in the system since Under-16s so now they get their chance in the Under 18s arena."
The Under-18s Origin match will take place from 5:15pm AEST tomorrow night, in the lead-up to the main game at ANZ Stadium. There are several similarities, Buderus says, in the style of game played in both fixtures.
"It (Under-18s Origin) is just an Origin match - you’ll see a lot of their skills on display and they have so much ability, but sometimes it comes down to will and want," Buderus says. "That’s the thing we want to see on display.
"(We want to) play that Origin mentality and get that job done on the back of our kicking game, kick-chase and what we call ‘live ball’ - when the ball's in play all the time.
"It’s all those things that makes Origin such a good spectacle."
Tune into NSWRL.com.au tomorrow afternoon for the full live stream of the game.