Haas played his first match during Ramadan for the Broncos in their comprehensive win over Manly at night during Magic Round and faces the prospect of training during daylight hours during the entire Origin preparation without taking in fluids.
Canterbury wizard El Masri, whose all-time points-scoring record was eclipsed only this year by Cameron Smith, famously undertook pre-season torture sessions during longer daylight hours in summer without food or drink.
“From an athlete’s point of view, it’s extremely hard,” El Masri said. “Water is the biggest issue when trying to stay hydrated.
“In the middle of summer we’d have a sprint training session at 9am on a rubber track and it could be about 40 degrees [on the surface] and the sun above is extremely hot. You’re getting baked.
“I’d make sure I’d go and get hydrated at night and the biggest support he can get is from his club to make sure they monitor his condition.
“My theory was do not complain and just go about doing my job and training. The boys appreciate that and the amount of respect you gain from your teammates is enormous. For me that was one of the biggest incentives and support you can get. You’re doing it for the right reasons.”
He’ll be a much better person come the end of it. He’ll feel like if he can go through he can achieve anything he wants
Hazem El Masri
Haas missed the first four games of the season and was fined $20,000 in a club imposed ban for failing to adequately comply with an NRL integrity unit investigation.
He has turned to his Islamic faith in recent months and is on the cusp of being added to NSW’s front-row rotation for their Origin series defence.
“The majority of Ramadan is mental,” El Masri said. “He’s a big boy and he will handle it. He’s got youth on his side and mentally it will prepare you so well for the future. He’ll be a much better person come the end of it. He’ll feel like if he can go through it he can achieve anything he wants. For me that was always the case.”
Fittler is familiar with the famous physical exploits of Haas, who was said to set testing benchmarks as a 15-year-old that would eclipse even under-age NSW representatives who were readying for under-20s Origin matches.
Fittler will take a close look at Haas and fellow Broncos prop Matt Lodge in Brisbane’s clash against the Roosters on Friday night.
Asked whether Haas could play himself into the NSW side this week, Fittler said: “Hopefully. I just want him to finish.
“Look at Reagan Campbell-Gillard, he played against the Roosters and copped some heavy fire and was out for eight weeks after that. What a challenge for him.
“To get a bearing I’m trying to ask other players what it’s like to play against him. They say he’s a handful. I spoke to Jake [Trbojevic] about it and he said, ‘I didn’t realise he’s a handful’. This week he’s got [Jared Waerea-]Hargreaves and [Sio Suia Taukeiaho] and [Zane] Tetevano and Isaac Liu.”
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.