Brisbane Broncos enforcer Tevita Pangai Junior has hailed the influence of Sonny Bill Williams on his career after admitting the New Zealand great has helped him make the most of his "second chance" in rugby league.
Pangai Junior is one of the Broncos most in-form players this season but the rampaging forward has endured a chequered history with the club, punctuated by a series of disciplinary issues.
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The talented forward was close to losing his rich Broncos deal after multiple COVID-19 breaches, which included a visit to a barber shop with alleged bikie links.
It prompted a $30,000 fine and indefinite stand-down by the NRL last year.
While a potent on-field threat, Pangai had also been suspended for 14 weeks over the previous two seasons and Brisbane's patience had worn thin.
The Broncos ordered him to work in a nursery full-time as a form and punishment and to prove his commitment to the Broncos.
The hard labour clearly served its purpose with Pangai Junior's renewed sense of purpose driving his on-field performances.
"I just don't want to go and work in the garden for eight hours; I really enjoy the pay and being around the boys," he said when asked what was motivating his reform.
This season he has arguably been the Broncos' best player, deployed in the back row and assigned the toughest defensive tasks.
However, the 25-year-old credits his blossoming friendship with All Blacks and Roosters legend Williams, with helping to provide stability to his life outside of footy.
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"What I did wrong last year with breaching protocol ... it was a good time to self reflect on five years in the NRL and some of the dumb things I did and said," Pangai said.
"Just trying to hang out with good people and I've got pretty close to Sonny and he's been helping me a lot off the field.
"Footy comes naturally to me, so the big thing is Monday to Thursday.
"(Sonny) had trouble early in his career but he's a perfect example of how you can get yourself out of it.
"People can change and that's what the game gives, second chances and I'm just thankful (ARL Commission chairman) Peter V'landys and the (Broncos) board have given me a second chance."
Brisbane recorded their greatest comeback win on Friday to overocome Gold Coast and improve to 2-6 before Saturday's meeting with North Queensland (3-5).
Pangai hopes he'll see plenty of Cowboys gun Jason Taumalolo despite moving to an edge this season.
"I'm pretty happy there; I like the battles you can have out there with (Viliame) Kikau and (David) Fifita," he said.
"The NRL are trying to speed up the game but there's nothing better than a couple of heavyweights going at it."
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