Brisbane prop Payne Haas is arguably the highest rated teenager in the world of rugby league but he could be donning a Rabbitohs shirt right now had Sam Burgess kept a promise.
As the 19-year-old prepares to makes his NSW Blues debut in State of Origin next week, he told NRL.com that South Sydney missed out on his signature because of Sam.
Three years ago Haas was chased by 12 NRL clubs, one of which was the Bunnies, and he sat down with then head coach Michael Maguire and Sam Burgess in a Redfern café.
In the meeting Sam promised to go watch the starstruck Haas play for Keebra Sports High in Penrith later that week, a move that would all but seal the signing.
“Before the game I was looking around for him,” Haas said.
“But he didn’t come. I was a kid. It hurt me a bit. I used to love Souths. My dad’s a mad Souths fan. And Sam Burgess was someone I grew up idolising. It’s funny how things impact you when you’re young.
“I was pretty close to signing there. The only reason I didn’t go any further with it was because Sammy told me he was going to come to my game. But he brushed me so I was like ‘oh don’t worry then, I’m not coming to South Sydney’.”
After ruling out the Rabbitohs, Haas looked likely to sign for Melbourne before a call with ex-Brisbane head coach Wayne Bennett persuaded him to join the Broncos.
Since then he has gone on to make a huge impact in the NRL, despite his tender age, earning a call up to Brad Fitler’s New South Wales squad for Origin I.
Speaking further about the episode, Haas revealed that Sam came up to him at the end of the recent Broncos-Rabbitohs NRL clash and apologised for breaking his promise.
“He came up to me after that game at ANZ Stadium a few weeks ago,” Haas said of Burgess.
“He said ‘I’m sorry I didn’t come to your game’. He actually couldn’t remember that he did say that, but he said if he did tell me that, he’s so sorry he didn’t come.
“I don’t hold any grudges against him. He’s a legend of a player and a legend of a person. I think it was all part of the plan. I believe I was destined to be at the Broncos and that’s what happened.”