Haas' Origin dream fuelled by faith

Converting to Islam has helped Payne Haas to earn a NSW Origin debut at age 19.
Converting to Islam has helped Payne Haas to earn a NSW Origin debut at age 19.

When NSW State of Origin wunderkind Payne Haas saw his name and face plastered over the news for all the wrong reasons, he knew something had to change.

At just 19 and having been earmarked as the NRL's next big thing, he felt like his life was starting to drift down the wrong path..

The Brisbane behemoth - who stands at 194cm and tips the scales at 119kg - was in February subject to a club-imposed four-game ban and fined $20,000 for failing to comply with an NRL integrity unit investigation.

"Going home and I'm on the news for bad reasons," said Haas in NSW camp on Monday ahead of his Origin debut next Wednesday

"I've got little brothers and sisters and family who look up to me.

"It's not the way I want to be portrayed and I want to be a good role model to them."

Haas resolved that he wouldn't let the incident define him and, after consulting with his parents, he converted to Islam.

His life and career have gone from strength to strength since then.

Upon returning to the field in round five, he has established himself as one of the premier props in the competition and has worked his way into the NSW side after just 10 NRL games.

He has averaged 167 run metres and 64 minutes this season in a portent of a talent which is still bubbling to the surface.

For most of the Blues' game one camp, he will observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, meaning he will be unable to eat or drink between sunrise and sunset.

Even during torturous training and gym sessions, he will be unable to touch a drop of water.

"I think it's more mental, it gives you a mental edge," Haas said.

"It means a lot to me. Islam is everything and Ramadan is everything. This month is very blessed to me.

"I had a few people around me, good people. My life felt like it was going a bit on the drift and I felt like Islam has changed my life. Now I'm on the right path."

Haas is one of five new faces for the Blues who will make their Origin debuts and coach Brad Fittler heaped lofty praise on him, describing him as the best prop in the game and the best teenage rookie he had ever seen.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself. I'm taking one step at a time," Haas said.

"But it's a massive privilege to be rapped like that by Freddy."

Australian Associated Press