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Tevita Pangai Jr at centre of shock Broncos development after quitting NRL

The former Bulldogs star shocked the NRL world after walking away from a lucrative contract in 2023.

Pictured left, former NRL star Tevita Pangai Jr at Brisbane Broncos training.
Tevita Pangai Jr's presence at Brisbane Broncos training sessions has sparked reports about a comeback to the NRL in 2024. Pic: Getty

Tevita Pangai Jr could be set for a sensational return to the NRL with the Brisbane Broncos in 2024, despite quitting the sport to take up boxing last season. The former representative forward sent shockwaves through the code in 2023 after announcing that he was walking away from a contract with the Bulldogs worth around $750,000 per season, 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's now emerged that Pangai Jr believes he can juggle careers in both boxing and the NRL and is targeting a return to the Broncos for the second half of the season, according to the Courier Mail.

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League reporter Peter Badel says Pangai Jr has spoken to Broncos powerbrokers about making a return to play for his former club, having only recently walked away from the game after indifferent form with the Bulldogs in 2023. Pangai Jr debuted with the Broncos in 2016 and featured in nearly 100 games for the Brisbane club before leaving.

Speculation around his potential return to the club and the NRL has heated up after the 27-year-old was spotted at Brisbane training recently, having moved back to Queensland after his tenure at the Bulldogs ended. Pangai Jr is close friends with star Brisbane duo Pat Carrigan and Payne Haas, with comments from the former appearing to validate the reports about a potential comeback.

Pat Carrigan responds to 'noise' around Tevita Pangai Jr

 

“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.”

The Broncos could have some room left in their salary cap and playing roster for the 2024 season after forwards Thomas Flegler, Kurt Capewell and Keenan Palasia all left to join other clubs. Centre Herbie Farnworth is another to have moved on from the Broncos after following Flegler to Queensland rivals, the Dolphins.

If Pangai Jr does return to the NRL this season, he would be attempting to follow in the footsteps of Cronulla legend Paul Gallen, by forging a successful career in boxing, while playing first grade rugby league. Four-time world boxing champion Jeff Fenech has already warned Pangai Jr that any lack of hunger or motivation will be brutally exposed in his new career as a professional boxer.

"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.

Tevita Pangai Jr has three wins from three fights in his professional boxing career to date. Pic: Getty
Tevita Pangai Jr has three wins from three fights in his professional boxing career to date. Pic: Getty

Phil Gould denies pushing Tevita Pangai Jr out of Bulldogs

The bombshell development around Pangai Jr comes after Bulldogs supremo rubbished reports the forward was pushed out of the Canterbury club. Gould suggested at the time of Pangai's announcement to quit the NRL that his State of Origin selection and subsequent axing had weighed heavily on him, with the frequent media criticism directed at the forward taking its toll.

Gould vehemently denied suggestions that the Bulldogs gave Pangai an ultimatum to choose rugby league or boxing. “Absolute rubbish, absolute lies. It never happened that way whatsoever. No way in the world did that happen,” Gould said on his Sx Tackles with Gus podcast. “Nor has he discussed or wanted any settlement for next year’s contract, he’s virtually walked away from it.

“He said ‘my family think I’m stupid’ and I said well, everybody raises their eyebrows these days, people just don’t walk away from contracts that lucrative. “He’s his own man, that’s what his heart wants to do and he’s going to back himself in that sport. Whether he rethinks and comes back to rugby league.. You don’t know with Tevita.”

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