Haas on alert as rivals make him a target
Broncos prop Payne Haas admits he has to cope with becoming a front-row target as it emerged the NSW Origin sensation has not made a linebreak in 639 minutes of football this season.
Touted as the best young front-row prospect in rugby league, the 118kg monster has felt the weight of expectation heading into Friday night's crucial clash against the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval.
It is a measure of Haas' ability that he last year became the first forward under the age of 21 to amass more than 3000 running metres in a single season since the inception of the NRL competition in 1998.
But this season, Haas' third in the NRL, the 20-year-old has struggled to replicate the dominance that 12 months ago won him a maiden NSW Origin jumper after just 10 first-grade games.
Statistics from Fox Sports Lab show that Haas' average running metres are down from 176 last year to 161 after nine rounds - an almost 10 per cent drop in his midfield yardage.
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Haas made six line breaks from 21 matches last season, but ahead of his 10th game of the 2020 campaign against the Tigers, the towering prop has yet to bust the line.
The Broncos' dismal six-match losing streak has not helped Haas, who has been forced to shoulder the load amid injuries and suspensions to forward cohorts Matt Lodge, Tevita Pangai Jr, Tom Flegler, Pat Carrigan and Joe Ofahengaue.
"I have known teams are coming after me but I have to adapt to that," Haas said.
"Me and the coaches are working hard during the week to be the best I can be every week.
"I just have to keep chipping away and working hard.
"I would love to back up my game from last year. What I did last year will mean nothing if I don't follow on and keep up my consistency this season."
Haas' tackle-busting potency has also been blunted. Last season, he had 91 tackle busts at an average of 4.3 per game, but this year he has suffered a 53 per cent decrease with an average of two per match.
There are fears Haas is playing too many minutes for his tender years in the engine room.
In four of his first five games this season, Haas played the full 80 minutes, but in the past month, Broncos coach Anthony Seibold has reduced his game time to around the hour mark.
Haas admits the reduction in playing time has eased the strain as the code's biggest forwards adapt to the faster pace of the NRL under the one-referee, six-again revolution.
"It is a bit hard when you are playing 80 minutes and defending the whole time," Haas said.
"Obviously having a break has been better for me.
"I am still young and my body is still (developing) so having a break in games is best for me."
PAIX COOKING UP PLAN TO STOP TIGER
Broncos rookie Cory Paix has turned to studying footage of Test rake Damien Cook in a bid to fight fire with fire when he tackles Wests Tigers young gun Harry Grant on Friday night.
Grant is the Tigers' flavour of the month and Brisbane's hooking alliance of Issac Luke and Paix are under pressure to outpoint the Queensland Origin hopeful in their crucial round 10 clash at Leichhardt Oval.
Paix was originally a five-eighth or halfback in his junior representative days but since being graded by the Broncos, coach Anthony Seibold has converted him into a hooker, believing his pace and vision can be handy around the rucks.
Growing up, Paix idolised Queensland Origin halfback great Cooper Cronk, but the dummy-half brilliance of Souths hooker Cook is now more useful as he prepares to match Grant's guile.
"We all know Harry is a great player," Paix said.
"I've played against him in the (Intrust Super) Cup so he's a very good player and we will be on our game this week to shut him down.
"He suits the style of the game these days for a hooker with his speed around the ruck.
"Cooper Cronk was a great player, but now that I'm at (hooker) I look to a guy like Damien Cook.
"He is like me with my speed so he is someone I look to now.
"I spend a lot of time on the computer and I look at certain players and how their attributes can help my game."
Like Grant, who is on loan to the Tigers from the Storm, Paix's introduction to the NRL has been a sink-or-swim experience.
The well-spoken Paix, who attended St Mary's Toowoomba, the same school which produced Cowboys champion Johnathan Thurston, got the shock of his life when he was handed his NRL debut in Brisbane's 59-0 loss to the Roosters six weeks ago.
He describes life around the rucks like being in a "washing machine", but Paix is gradually coming to grips with his metamorphosis as a dummy-half controller.
"I am enjoying it, I like the physicality of playing in the middle," he said.
"I think I had three games (at hooker in the Intrust Super Cup) under my belt before I played nine in the NRL.
"It was definitely a tough challenge for me. I planned on playing the whole year in the Queensland Cup, but my goal was to play NRL and I achieved that this year, probably not in the circumstances I wanted to with the result against the Roosters.
"But it was a good test for me, I got to face the premiers and see where I was at physically and I thought I handled myself really well considering that result.
"I have played all my life in the halves, but I'm loving hooker at the moment. I am investing a lot of time in the position ... it's another string to my bow."
Originally published as Haas on alert as rivals make him a target