The New Breed Of Pasifika Front Rower
Introducing in the Pasifika¹ corner, weighing in at 258 pounds (117kg) he stands at 6 feet 4 inches tall, he hails from Newcastle NSW fighting out of the Brisbane Broncos Rugby league team repping his Samoan/Filipino heritage... I give you the new dangerous evolution of today’s breed of Prop with Pasifika heritage;
by Simon Amani I 8th August 2023
On the eve of his 100th game in the NRL, a milestone in which players are judged to really start coming into their own. Payne Haas has already achieved so much at such a young age, it is both scary and exciting what canvas of work Payne Haas will give us over the next five-plus years.
But before we start kissing his ass, let’s dive into the trailblazers who played prop before him, the ones repping Pasifika heritage copping the racial “coconut”, and “black c@nt$” call from crowds way before social media was around.
I’d have to say our Maori brothers from Aotearoa paved the way first with guys like Dane and Kurt Sorensen in the 70s and 80s who had Maori/Tongan/Danish ancestry.
Through the 80s it still seemed slim pickings at Prop, still a few Pasifika names like Filipaina, and Fred Ah Kuoi doing their thing. But at Prop you would have to wait until the 90s to really see the influx of the Pasifika Front Rowers. We were introduced to probably the first Pasifika front-row combination in the early-mid 90s from Canberra with a couple of Maoris in John Lomax and Quentin Pongia (RIP).
The Auckland Warriors introduced us to Big Joe Vagana and cult figure Hitro Okesene. The 90s also introduced us to in my opinion the two greatest Pasifika Props of all time; Otara raised Samoan Ruben Wiki who started out in the centers and the great Fijian Prop Petero Civonociva who represented State and Country and played well into the 2000s. Special mention to guys like Se’e Solomona and Soloman Haumauno who were big hitters.
From the 2000s onwards we started to see more Brown faces in teams with guys like Paul Rahihi, Dave Solomona, the Cayliss brothers, Sika Manu, and Jeff Lima.
From the 2010s to today we now see every team with a Pasifika Prop, but not only that, they are at the top of the tree.
Guys like Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Adin Fonua-Blake, Junior Paulo, Tino Faasuamaleaui, Josh Papalii, James Fisher-Harris, and Moses Leota just to name a few are all considered the best of the bunch of Front Rowers in the game today.
After all them names, this kid Payne Haas only after 99 games is close to being at the top of that list. In his last couple of years, his numbers have been crazy. Top meters for props where the list is full of full-backs and wingers, the top number of hit-ups. This fella is also close to the top of the Dally M leaderboard at the moment. He’s a good mixture of Power and Speed, safe on Defence, and probably missing a big hit in his artillery but in today’s game that style is being fazed out by refs. Not as sharp ball-playing as Dave Solomona or Junior Paulo but still has a pre and post-line pass in him.
But it’s his big engine that sets him apart. His numbers on the attack are out of the world, averaging over 160 meters a game, and plays big minutes. If Broncos can win a premiership on the back of this fellas performance, we may be witnessing the best of all time! Pasifika or not.
My top 5 for now;
1: Ruben Wiki
2: Petro Civonociva
3: Josh Papali’I
4: Kurt Sorensen
5: Payne Haas