Kick his Haas: Greats come out swinging for rematch
Wayne Bennett has given Tino Fa'asuamaleaui the green light to rip into Payne Haas again if the NSW front-rower attempts to punch on with the Maroons monster in Wednesday night's Origin decider.
It comes as Australian boxing legend Jeff Fenech got into the Blues' corner for the rematch with Fa'asuamaleaui, challenging Haas to "stand up to him again - don't back down".
But if Haas seeks to fan the flames of what is being dubbed a 10-year Origin rivalry and strike first, Fa'asuamaleaui has the unqualified backing of Bennett to tap into the spirit of Arthur Beetson and belt the NSW Origin prop.
Watch The State of Origin II Full & Mini REPLAY on Kayo with no ad-breaks during play and Fox League Commentary. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly
Bennett has not forgotten how Beetson's stunning attack on Eels teammate Mick Cronin in 1980 Origin opener laid the bedrock for Queensland's psyche in the code's toughest arena.
Bennett was also the Queensland coach in 1986 when he agreed to a no-punching ceasefire with NSW hierarchy, only to feel he was duped when Blues enforcer Steve Roach king-hit Bob Lindner in the series opener at Lang Park.
Bennett does not want to see the Suncorp decider marred by ugly scenes of brawling, but says if Haas throws the first punch like he did in Origin II, Fa'asuamaleaui can seek retribution.
"I will be talking to Tino to make sure he doesn't (fight), but I can't guarantee it won't happen," Bennett said.
"Tino is a beautifully mannered young man, but if Haas throws the first punch, I don't expect him to back off.
"I haven't said much to him, Tino is a guy you don't have to talk a lot to because he is pretty well motivated.
"He is an easy to coach guy, he wants to do his best for you. He is 20 years of age and we have a decade of him, it will be good hey?
"He will only get better. He won't be intimidated by anybody so he will get out there and let's see what happens."
Fenech, Australia's former world champion boxer, comparing the State of Origin Cauldron to Rome's Colosseum, the Australian Hall of Fame boxer said: "This isn't about being violent - this is about standing up and letting people know you will bleed for NSW.
"Origin is like being in Rome - you can't back down at the Colosseum. You've got your NSW jersey on. I hate all this jumper-pulling shit.
"Just turn around and walk away - you look more of a man by walking away than ripping somebody's jumper."
As for his message to Haas, Fenech said: "You back down you give your opposition an advantage. They will see that you've backed down.
"You can't back down in any way, shape or form in the Origin arena. Show them what you stand for, whether it's for your brother, friend or teammate.
"It fired NSW up, look at the result in Sydney. This isn't just about bleeding for NSW but about bleeding for your teammates
"He (Haas) should be saying he is a big bloke and is there to protect teammates, he is there for them. NSW has to have fire in the belly.
"What happened has given both players some ammunition for the third game. I didn't think it would erupt but they showed they still have that passion. They are mates.
"It's State of Origin - that's what it's losing. I speak to a lot of people and they don't think it's the same anymore. It needs that (some aggression), that's what we come to expect. Nobody wants anyone to get hurt."
But Bennett, who was in the Lang Park stands as a fan when Beetson roughed-up Cronin 40 years ago, scoffed at suggestions he had lost touch with the combative nature of Origin football.
"There were a few confrontations in the first-ever Origin and I remember 'Artie' taking on his good mate Mick Cronin. He held no fear. He held no punches back. He just stood up for his Queensland teammates," he said.
"I get the narrative around rivalries. I'm not against the biff because that's what made Origin great, but we live in a world today where it can't happen."
NSW coach Brad Fittler stressed Haas must focus on his football.
"He will be under the instructions to go out there and play footy," Fittler said. "I don't think Payne Haas goes out there thinking about fighting. He will be told to go and play footy."
NRL head of football, Graham Annesley said both states shouldn't need to be reminded about the harsh penalties imposed for players fighting.
Former Queensland Origin lock Billy Moore urged Fa'asuamaleaui to go after 118kg hulk Haas.
"I can't wait for this, there is unfinished business between Tino and Haas," Moore said.
"Origin has been crying out for some passionate rivalry and these two young bulls are high quality and they will be duelling for a decade now.
"It's important one of them leave a stamp on each other in this game.
"I would love to see Tino and Payne rip and tear into each other, but it's the player who gets back to what they should be doing with their game that will be the real winner.
"We saw Paul Harragon and Mark Carroll go hammer-and-tongs as front-row rivals and I'd love to see some aggression from these two within the rules.
"I have huge wraps on both - they are the alpha males of their age group and they set the tempo for their forwards.
"I'd like to see the guys go right to the edge physically. It would be great to see Tino cut Payne in half and Payne coming back trying to do the same."
Maroons skipper Daly Cherry-Evans said Fa'asuamaleaui's size, presence and aggression would be crucial in halting Haas, who charged for 157 metres in Origin II and knows the Suncorp cauldron well as a Broncos player.
"I feel like Tino has really stood up," he said.
"I said at the start of the series, the impact he had for Melbourne this year, we were hoping to get that same result for Queensland.
"If I'm completely honest I feel like Tino's best footy is ahead of him.
"He is so young still and probably still learning about footy and his preparation and that sort of stuff. The bar he has set at the moment is pretty high. Hopefully we can raise it again together in the decider."
THE DAY PAYNE HAAS STEAMROLLED O'MELEY
- David Riccio
Mark O'Meley knows exactly how Queensland forward Tino Fa'asuamaleaui feels.
"As coach, I had Payne Haas in the under-18's NSW side,'' O'Meley said. "We were doing some padwork and he ran straight over me."
Little did the former Test, NSW, Canterbury and Roosters prop know, Haas, the fearless Blues bull, was merely trying to impress his hero.
"Ogre' (O'Meley) was a warhorse and kept coming all day,'' Haas said when he asked who he looked up too ahead of his much-anticipated rematch with Fa'asuamaleaui on Wednesday night.
"Glenn Lazarus was also a freak. I always watch their old videos.
"Those guys who paved the way for us forwards now, we (NSW forward pack) now have to leave the jersey in a better place than they did. ''
All eyes will be on Haas and Fa'asuamaleaui after the two traded blows in Origin II.
O'Meley, the Blues COVID-19 officer in camp, smiled when asked if he expected more fireworks.
"It was good to see that Origin spirit, but there wasn't really much in it,'' said O'Meley, who played 10 games for the Blues.
"It was just great to see two young guys going head to head.
"It's Origin, it's a different beast.
"Obviously Tino's manager got under Payne's skin (with comments made pre-match) a bit and he reacted and that's how it works.
"Hopefully this time they concentrate on footy, but it obviously adds to the drama."
O'Meley added that he was proud that Haas looked up to him with a desire to maintain pride in the Blues jersey.
"I've coached Payne a few times now, through the juniors,'' O'Meley said.
"He's a very nice kid who's been raised really respectfully.
"We've got some good young players, Saf (Daniel Saifiti) is going really well and Payne is standing up and starting to see how great and how powerful he can be in the Origin arena which is different to NRL.
"He's always been a big powerful thing.
"He's a talent and he's just slowly opening doors, there's so much potential.''
The Suncorp Stadium decider will mark the biggest game of Haas' burgeoning career and the 20-year-old acknowledges the Maroons will be a different side on their home soil.
"It's hard to win up there, especially against Queensland,'' Haas said.
"They always turn up, like we turn up here (Sydney). It is going to be a really tough game.
"We can't try to fancy our way through them. If we weather the storm, I think we can get the job done."
Originally published as Kick his Haas: Greats come out swinging for rematch