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Bulldogs' telling response to Tevita Pangai move as Broncos hit with reality check

The former Bulldogs star stunned the NRL world after walking away from the sport to pursue a boxing career.

Pictured Tevita Pangai Junior
Canterbury have reiterated that they support whatever Tevita Pangai Junior chooses to do with his sporting career amid rumours he may resurrect his NRL career in Brisbane. Image: Getty

Canterbury's relaxed response to news Tevita Pangai Junior may resurrect his rugby league career in Brisbane should tell the Broncos everything they need to know about the proposed deal.Bulldogs CEO Aaron Warburton simply wished TPJ and his family all the best, reiterating the one-game Origin player left Belmore "on extremely good terms".

Club boss Phil Gould, who only has to sneeze to attract a headline, didn’t utter a word publicly. Coach Cameron Ciraldo was similarly silent, as were their usually noisy fan group.

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That's because the Dogs were not overly disappointed to see the back of a player who ran hot and cold for them and, at times, possessed the discipline of a five-year-old. Pangai was on big money at Canterbury but failed to fire a real shot in anger for most of the two seasons he was there.

Once one of the most feared forwards in the game, he was supposed to bring mongrel, attitude and menace on both sides of the ball. Instead, we only saw mistakes and inconsistent form.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 12:  Tevita Pangai Junior of the Bulldogs reacts after losing the round 15 NRL match between Canterbury Bulldogs and Parramatta Eels at Accor Stadium on June 12, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Tevita Pangai Junior pictured after losing the round 15 NRL match between Canterbury Bulldogs and Parramatta Eels in 2023. Image: Getty (Matt King via Getty Images)

Somehow – despite all this – Brad Fittler picked him for game one of last year's Origin series and was badly let down. It was Pangai Jnr's ill-conceived offload straight to an opposition player that led to a Queensland try and ended any hope of a NSW victory.

The rest of his season was pretty much a write-off as the Dogs slid to their familiar position near the base of the ladder. Pangai Jnr looked disinterested and disillusioned before abruptly pulling the plug and announcing he was taking up boxing full-time.

The Dogs – knowing it would ease salary cap pressure while shedding a player who didn’t want to be there - didn’t try too hard to talk him out of it. Did someone at the Broncos not pick up on all this before entering talks with Pangai about a possible return to league later this year? Are their memories really that short?

Pangai was at Brisbane for six years before it all ended in tears. In 2020 he was stood down and placed on a one-year probation for multiple breaches of strict Covid regulations.

A year later, after another indifferent season, he was told he was not in the club's future plans and was later granted a release to join Penrith on a short-term deal before his stint with Canterbury began in 2022. By August last year, he walked away from his $750,000-a-year contract to take up boxing in a move his manager described as "madness".

Jeff Fenech told Yahoo Sport Australia at the time: "If you're not hungry in my sport you're not going to do it for long because you're getting your head punched in.

"Whatever it took to be the best I would do. I hope Tevita has the same mindset because it’s a totally different thing when you're getting punched in the face every day." Those in charge in Brisbane might be the ones needing a slap across the chops if they go through with this plan.

Mat Rogers and Scott Sattler warn Broncos against Tevita Pangai Jnr move

Mat Rogers and Scott Sattler tend to agree that the Broncos must tread warily and seriously think about whether it is a good decision to bring Tevita Pangai Jnr back to the club. Speaking on his SEN show, Rogers said he fears bringing Pangai Jnr back to Brisbane could "upset" the team.

"The Broncos have got something pretty special there. They have a great group of young players," Rogers said. "I agree that Tevita could add something, but does it not rub people up the wrong way with the comments he made last year about not liking being told what to do in rugby league? It blows my mind (the prospect of Pangai Jr coming back to the NRL)."

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Mat Rogers of the Titans looks to the crowd after the round 26 NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the Wests Tigers at Skilled Park on September 3, 2010 on the Gold Coast, Australia.  (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Mat Rogers believes the Broncos must tread warily and seriously think about if it is a good decision to bring Tevita Pangai Jnr back to the club. Image: Getty (Matt Roberts via Getty Images)

While Sattler says that regardless of Brisbane losing several players in free agency - such as forward Kurt Capewell, Tom Flegler and Keenan Palasia - Pangai Jnr is not the type of player they need. "It seems to me like Tevita Pangai Jr is making his own rules," Sattler said.

"His last contract at the Dogs was $750,000 on the salary cap. It’s pretty steep if you are going to sign a guy who doesn’t have a great attitude and has walked away from the game before with some pretty poor comments."

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