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Tevita Pangai rejects Wayne Bennett's $2m move amid eye-opening call on Payne Haas

The former Bulldogs star has shut down suggestions he could sign for the Dolphins, saying his heart is set on returning to the Broncos.

Tevita Pangai Jnr has shut down suggestions he could team up with Wayne Bennett at the Dolphins, saying his heart is set on reuniting with his close friend Payne Haas at the Broncos. The 28-year-old - who has a heavyweight boxing fight on Saturday night in Ipswich against Raphael Sa'u - is currently signed to Queensland Cup side Souths-Logan Magpies, a direct feeder club to Brisbane.

The Tongan international held talks with Bennett on Saturday after the Dolphins coach said he had "a couple of million dollars" in the salary cap to spend. Pangai said they discussed his professional boxing career and life in general and he told the super coach he would seriously consider joining him in Redcliffe. But after careful consideration, the 28-year-old said he decided that a return to the Broncos was what he truly wanted.

Tevita Pangai has shut down talks of joining Wayne Bennett at the Dolphins, stating his heart is set on reuniting with Payne Haas at the Broncos. Image: Getty
Tevita Pangai has shut down talks of joining Wayne Bennett at the Dolphins, stating his heart is set on reuniting with Payne Haas at the Broncos. Image: Getty

"I haven't told Wayne yet, but I always said that I wanted to go back to the Broncos," Pangai told AAP. "I just think the Broncos are the right fit for me at the moment with where they are as a club. I feel as though I have unfinished business there.

"It is either the Broncos or I will continue boxing. I don't want to waste the Dolphins' time or use that as leverage. I just know they won't get the best version of me. If my heart's not in it you will see it in my performances, but I feel I can give my all to the Broncos if they are keen."

BUNDABERG, AUSTRALIA - JULY 30: Tevita Pangai Junior of the Bulldogs looks on during the round 22 NRL match between Canterbury Bulldogs and Dolphins at Salter Oval on July 30, 2023 in Bundaberg, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
Last year Tevita Pangai shocked the NRL world by walking away from a monster $750,000 per season contract at the Bulldogs to pursue a professional boxing career. (Ian Hitchcock via Getty Images)

Pangai played 96 games for Brisbane before leaving to join the Bulldogs. Last year he shocked the NRL world when he walked away from a monster $750,000 per season contract at the Dogs to pursue a professional boxing career. The 27-year-old is unbeaten in his three professional fights to date but says he will return to the NRL if the Broncos want him.

"Me and Payne are brothers. He has always had my back. When I made poor decisions he always backed me. It was good to play with him for NSW in Origin, and it would be great to play with him and Pat Carrigan week-to-week," Pangai said. "If it doesn't happen I will continue on my boxing journey."

Tevita Pangai reveals Wayne Bennett regret

Pangai began his NRL career under the watchful eye of Bennett and says he regrets not following him to South Sydney. "I loved playing under Wayne, and I had the chance to follow him to South Sydney (in 2019)," Pangai said.

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"I said no and sometimes I look back and feel as though I should have, but I feel like the Broncos are in a great spot at the moment. It is close to my boxing gym. It is a long drive to Redcliffe from my boxing gym on the south side (of Brisbane), and I could continue my boxing training on my days off."

Tevita Pangai could follow in Paul Gallen's footsteps

Pangai Jnr's return to rugby league could see him follow in the footsteps of prize-fighting athlete Paul Gallen, who juggled both sports towards the end of his NRL career. Gallen went on to make a career in boxing after he retired from rugby league.

However, boxing great Jeff Fenech previously warned Pangai against doing so, saying a boxing career takes unwavering dedication. "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 previously told Yahoo Sport Australia.

with AAP

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