Walters, Bellamy talks fire Pangai’s NRL return quest

Joel Gould |

Tevita Pangai Jr will give up boxing and focus on returning to the NRL.
Tevita Pangai Jr will give up boxing and focus on returning to the NRL.

Tevita Pangai Jr will hang up his boxing gloves in a bid to reboot his rugby league career.

After informal chats with Brisbane coach Kevin Walters and Melbourne mentor Craig Bellamy, the former NRL star is convinced he’s on the right path. 

Pangai Jr, signed to Souths Logan Magpies in the Queensland Cup, will have his fifth and last professional fight on Saturday night.

“Then I am going to go back to rugby league full time,” he told AAP.

“I had a coffee with Kevvie and had informal talks. He said I have a lot of footy in me and that conversation confirmed I still have it. 

“The Broncos door seems to be shut so I reached out to Craig Bellamy. The big thing he said about my career was that consistency had been lacking. I agree. That’s one thing I want to get right when I get back.

“Both of those chats have lit the fire in my belly. I want to get back to my best in the NRL.

“I just want to control what I can control. I am eating the right food and training hard. I am 114kg at the moment and that was the weight Wayne Bennett always liked me at when I was at the Broncos.

“I am ready to put my best foot forward.”

Tevita Pangai Junior at training with the Broncos in 2020.
Former Bronco Tevita Pangai Jr (l) has spoken to coach Kevin Walters (c) about a possible NRL return (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

Pangai Jr’s chat to Bellamy, as of Thursday, had not extended to any official discussions with the club’s recruitment and retention committee. 

His manager and brother, David Pangai, is looking after his affairs and will deal with any NRL club interested in his services.

Pangai Jr, who was released by Canterbury last year to pursue professional boxing, played 96 of his 138 NRL games at the Broncos.

A player must have an NRL contract to compete at the highest level so Pangai cannot be called up from the second-tier Magpies to the Broncos unless he has a deal.

It is highly unlikely the NRL salary-cap auditor would allow the Broncos, or any other club, to sign Pangai on anything other than a fully fledged NRL contract, which would rule out an NRL train-and-trial deal like the one Dolphins fullback Trai Fuller is on.

The Broncos do have one top-30 slot available. 

“We know where he is. With our salary cap we can’t afford him right now,” Walters said, when asked about 28-year-old on Thursday. 

“We have to wait for a few more weeks. We are a ‘wait and see’. 

“We are always open here to players who can add value to our group, and if we believe at the right time that Tevita can do that we will see.

“We are all aware of his talents. Maybe the boxing career has been good for him. 

“It is an individual sport and makes you realise you are out there by yourself in the ring. 

“Rugby league is a team environment where you have sometimes got to do what you don’t want to do to help your teammate out, so maybe that has opened up a bit of a light for him.  

“He has certainly got great ability as a footballer.”