Dolphins half Katoa backs new signing Pangai to fire

Joel Gould |

Tonga international Tevita Pangai Jnr has signed with the Dolphins for the rest of 2024.
Tonga international Tevita Pangai Jnr has signed with the Dolphins for the rest of 2024.

Tevita Pangai Jnr has missed his first day of Dolphins training with illness but half Isaiya Katoa has backed his fellow Tonga international to make the most of the lifeline offered by the club.

Pangai, 28, was released by Canterbury last year to pursue a professional boxing career but after a short stint decided he wanted an NRL return and add to his 138 first-grade games.

He has been playing Queensland Cup with Souths-Logan but now gets his chance at the Dolphins on a contract until the end of this season. Pangai won’t play Cronulla on Thursday night away and is expected to feature in the second tier for several weeks initially.

There was an anti-climax at Dolphins training when a large media contingent turned up to interview human headline Pangai only to find he was at home sick.

Katoa, eloquent as ever, stepped into the breach to back Pangai to fire.

“I have spoken to him twice and I just know he is so grateful for the opportunity to come back to the NRL but also to come to a great club with great coaching staff and great players around him,” Katoa said.

“I know he will take that seriously. I don’t think he is the type of guy to take this opportunity for granted.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we are back here at the end of the year and talking about how good he has gone and wanting to re-sign him. I am so confident he will be a great addition to our forward pack.”

When Pangai left the NRL he said he was sick of being bossed around by halfbacks. It was a colourful comment known as a “Tevitaism”, more for effect.

Isaiya Katoa.
Dolphins half Isaiya Katoa can’t wait to line up with new signing Tevita Pangai Jnr. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

“I have told already told him what to do and he hasn’t even been at training,” Katoa joked.

“I am excited to work with him and I am sure he will give me respect. I will give him respect and won’t tell him to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. I try to lead by my words and actions and that builds trust.

“He can also give me advice. I am not afraid to take it.

“Tevita is such a great bloke. You can just tell, fellow Tongan to Tongan, it’s not that hard to connect on a personal level.

“Already I think we have a great relationship and I’m definitely looking forward to playing with him.”

The Dolphins are without injured middle forwards Tom Gilbert (knee) and Thomas Flegler (shoulder) and Pangai will provide cover and impact off the bench.

“I will just play off the back of it. Hopefully he gives us a quick play the ball or he bends the line in some way,” Katoa said.

“The system that we run here, he will fit in perfectly. We have Wayne Bennett and Kristian Woolf and he has played under those coaches. He also has a great relationship with some of the ex-Broncos boys we have here.

“He doesn’t have to change anything. He just has to come in and be himself.”