Pangai eyes Broncos reunion with Haas, rules out Phins

Joel Gould |

Tevita Pangai Jr says he’ll only play NRL for the Broncos as he prepares for his next boxing fight.
Tevita Pangai Jr says he’ll only play NRL for the Broncos as he prepares for his next boxing fight.

Tevita Pangai Jr says he still has his heart set on reuniting with his great mate Payne Haas at Brisbane, as he ruled out signing with the Dolphins under Wayne Bennett this year.

The 28-year-old, who has a heavyweight boxing fight on Saturday night in Ipswich against Raphael Sa’u, is playing Queensland Cup for Souths-Logan with a view to getting back in the NRL and adding to his 138 games.

The Tongan international spoke to Bennett on Saturday after the Dolphins coach said he had “a couple of million dollars” in the salary cap to spend on a forward.

Pangai said they discussed his professional boxing career and life in general, but after careful consideration he decided a return to the Broncos to play with Haas was his rugby league goal. 

“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.”

Haas said last month he would welcome Pangai back with open arms to the club where he played 96 games.

“Me and Payne are brothers,” Pangai said.

Tevita Pangai Junior (left) and Payne Haas
Tevita Pangai Jr (left) and Payne Haas at Brisbane training in 2020. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

“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.

“If it doesn’t happen I will continue on my boxing journey.”

He said the realisation that he may not ever play under Bennett again would be hard to accept, as he revealed one big regret.

“I loved playing under Wayne, and I had the chance to follow him to South Sydney (in 2019),” Pangai said.

“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.”

Pangai, who is managed by his brother Dave, said he had not received any offers from the Broncos.

He still hopes he may play under Bennett again and credits the master coach with getting the best out of him in 2018 

“Maybe it is not ruled out. Maybe next year. We don’t know where Wayne is going to be,” Pangai said.

“Wayne is like my boxing trainer (Chris McCullen). He just cares for me on a personal level. He is the master.

“If he ends up at another club in Queensland I will definitely look at it.

“If the Broncos aren’t keen this year, that’s life, and I will do my best in boxing.”