Broncos legend Darren Lockyer has warned Payne Haas’ contract saga has the potential to derail the club’s premiership run.
Brisbane are desperate to lock down the best forward in the game but Haas has reportedly rejected a three-year extension worth $1.1 million per season.
Instead the superstar prop wants to test his value on the open market when he becomes a free agent on November 1, with the Bulldogs ready to open the cheque book.
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The Broncos are flying this season and are red-hot favourites to contest the grand final against two-time reigning premiers Penrith.
But Lockyer believes the Haas situation could become a major distraction with just three games left before finals.
“I think this is about Payne trying to understand what his market value is and the only way he’s going to know that is it has to get past November 1 because he can then actually go to the market,” Lockyer said on QLDER.
“He’s playing his 100th game for the Broncos this week, so it should all be about his milestone, not about his contract.
“The distraction has the potential to distract the team going into the finals.
“In a perfect world you’d find a way to get it resolved, but it seems like Payne is going to go to the market and understand what his value is out there, and maybe not just in this code.”
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Queensland legend Wally Lewis blamed player managers for lining their pockets by creating bidding wars that can destabilise clubs.
“One big issue that keeps coming up is the difficulty of dealing with player managers,” Lewis said.
“They’re out there trying to do a job for themselves and make the best possible contract for the player, and to also put money in his own pocket.
“He’s doing the right thing there, (but) is he doing the right thing by the game, by the club and by the fans? I guess that’s up to the individual.
“It is quite difficult and the ones that keep paying the penalty are the clubs themselves.”
Success comes at a price and Brisbane will inevitably face a salary cap squeeze but Lockyer said players must choose between cash and premierships.
“I look back to when we were dominant in the 90s and a lot of us wanted to stay for less money so we could be a part of winning. I think that’s the price you pay as an elite athlete,” Lockyer said.
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“Payne has always been talking about wanting a place where he can win, well he’s in a club at the moment that can win.
“A lot of those players, if they go to market, they’ll get more money, but if they want to be a part of a group and if they want to stick together and achieve a lot of things consistently for a long period of time, well then they’ll have to sacrifice some money.”
Haas is adamant that winning premierships is his focus and Lewis said it was time he followed Lockyer’s advice of choosing titles over money.
“That was pretty much the way the Broncos were for a long period,” Lewis said.
“They were quite prepared to take a little bit of a cutback because they knew they were playing with their mates and also playing with a wonderful side that every other team in the competition found extremely difficult to knock over.
“At the end of the day, if you retire at the end of your career as a player that was successful and you’ve just chalked up a couple of premiership wins, I don’t think you really mind if you don’t get quite as much as you probably deserved to because you see yourself as a winner that was a part of an extremely happy team that got to chalk up history-making processes.”
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