NEWS ‘I don’t know how he doesn’t collapse’: Lani awed by Payne’s strength in adversity


If Payne Haas was an American athlete, his life story would by now have been made into a Netflix series.

The NSW colossus is carrying the hopes of his state – and the future of his daughter and younger brothers – on his broad shoulders with a heavy sadness in his heart.

Last month, Haas’ father, Gregor, was arrested in the Philippines charged with drug trafficking. His extradition is being sought by Indonesia and, if extradited and convicted, he faces the death penalty.

Haas’ mother, Uiatu “Joan” Taufua, is also in custody, having been accused of fleeing a two-vehicle crash in the Gold Coast hinterland under the influence of alcohol which left three people dead. Her case is in limbo as she awaits psychiatric testing, and she is yet to enter a formal plea.

Haas, 24, has custody of his two school-aged brothers, Hans and Geejay, while also looking after his own daughter, Lalita. It is a situation that would have broken lesser men. Yet Haas soldiers on with quiet stoicism.

“I never see him falter,” his fiancee, Lani, told this column. “Not even when the doors are shut and it’s just me and him.”

At this point, Lani can’t hold back her tears. “I’m just so proud of him,” she says. “He is so strong mentally. His whole life is in the media. What he is doing for his family, what he is doing for me.

“I’m sorry if I can’t put it into words. His strength is just ... he is amazing. He’s really stepped up to care for those young boys. I don’t know how he doesn’t collapse.”

Like Payne, Lani is 24. Born in Mona Vale and a Manly fan, she met Payne as a 20-year-old and, since then, has seen his family life fall apart.

“I think disappointed is the best way to say how I feel for Payne,” Lani says. “The trauma he has experienced, the loss ... I’m 24 now and I’m basically a mother of three. Our little one and his brothers ... With the help of my family, his brothers and friends like Tevita [Pangai jnr, his former Brisbane and NSW teammate] we are bringing up a family ... it’s wild.

“He doesn’t show it [but] I’m sure deep down there’s disappointment. And there would definitely be anger. But he doesn’t show it. He never lets any of his anger or trauma get to him. He’s always positive and always trying to do better.”

For Haas, there is plenty of hurt.

“I’m not angry but I do get sad,” he said. “I do feel down for my little brothers. I just feel for them and they have to see this kind of stuff. You can’t really change everything now. It’s all happened now and I just need to make sure they have the support.

“I get supported by Lani and I’m unable to thank her enough. She is in a tough spot but she doesn’t back down from anything. She has taken on so much for me and I can’t thank her enough for that.”

That he can keep playing at the level he does is incredible.

“He is so focused and so passionate and determined,” Lani said. “I don’t know where he gets the strength from. But I know we work together so well and we don’t let anything get between us. We know we can deal with anything.”

Sydney Morning Herald


Forum Staff
Mar 5, 2008
Can't believe this mofo is still only 24.

He's come on leaps and bounds as a person in the last couple of years.

I know I wouldn't have had the mental strength at 24 that he does.


International Rep
Aug 25, 2018
His power is still 90% under the waterline.


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