Phil Gould has broken his silence on the Tevita Pangai Jr drama and said there would be no hard feelings if the forward joins a rival club. Pangai Jnr walked away from a monster $750,000 per season NRL contract at the Bulldogs, to take up professional boxing.
The 27-year-old is unbeaten from his three professional fights to date and will next step into the ring in March for the fourth fight of his professional career. However, it appears the forward believes he could make a comeback to the NRL and still juggle a boxing career.
The only issue is Pangai Jr would most likely be returning to a rival club after the Bulldogs let him go in 2023. Brisbane appears the most likely destination with Pangai Jr close friends with star duo Pat Carrigan and Payne Haas.
And while reports are swirling around of a potential comeback - despite no confirmation any team is interested - Gould has also opened up on the former Bulldogs enforcer making a return. Pangai Jr's exit left a hole for the Bulldogs to fill, but Gould has backed a potential return for 27-year-old no matter where he ends up in the sport.
“We were all a bit shocked when he gave it away last year,” Gould told Nine News. “If he’s had a second think about that and wants to come back to the sport, I think the sport will be better for it wherever he goes. He certainly has our blessing to go wherever he likes.”
Pangai Jr has played 130 NRL games and made his first State of Origin appearance last year under Brad Fittler. But his debut was rather underwhelming with the 27-year-old accused of going hot and cold during his performances.
On Monday, Bulldogs CEO Aaron Warburton also said the club wouldn't attempt to block any move from their former enforcer. The Broncos could potentially have room in their salary cap considering they have let a number of players go heading into the 2024 season. While the priority is to make room for Reece Walsh and Ezra Mam's next boosted contracts, Pangai Jr could be accommodated.
While there is only speculation around Pangai Jr at this point, Carrigan did address the rumours and backed a potential move. “There’s a bit of noise around Tevita,” Carrigan said. “He’s just moved back to Brissy and training down at Logan. We are close, Tevita, myself and Payne (Haas). I’d love to see him back at the Broncos. He retired and I think he’s enjoying his challenges with boxing, but we’ll see what happens.”
Tevita Pangai Junior could follow Paul Gallen path
His return to the NRL could see him follow prize-fighting athlete Paul Gallen when he juggled both sports towards the end of his career. Gallen went on to make a career in boxing, but after he had retired from the NRL. However, Boxing great Jeff Fenech originally warned Pangai Jr of the dedication needed to succeed in boxing.
"He wouldn’t be doing this if he wasn't going to make money but to walk away from $750,000 a year and think he's going to dominate in boxing... it’s not going to automatically happen," Fenech told Yahoo Sport Australia. Fenech, who is a member of boxing's International Hall of Fame following a stellar career, has nevertheless applauded Pangai's courage in taking on a new challenge.
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