Pangai Junior on Bennett and boxing

Published 12:14pm 17 June 2024

Pangai Junior on Bennett and boxing
Words by Kylie Knight

Tevita Pangai Junior says comments made, when he switched to boxing, about not wanting to be bossed around by halfbacks and coaches were said to sell tickets and he’s relishing the chance to train under Wayne Bennett once again.

Pangai Junior had his first training session with the squad today, after a couple of light individual sessions last week.

The mid-season signing has been easing back into training, during the past week, as he works to reduce ‘hamstring tightness’. It has also been a chance for coaching staff to see where he’s at.

Isaiya Katoa didn’t train today, suffering ‘shoulder soreness’, but is expected to return tomorrow and play on Friday night when the Dolphins take on the Storm at Suncorp Stadium (8pm kick off).

Jesse Bromwich was back, but wearing a non-contact bib, as he recovers from a rib cartilage injury. At this stage, he is expected to play against his former club.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Felise Kaufusi are in State of Origin camp and will not be available for the game.

See photos from training today at the end of this story

A nervous Pangai Junior fronted the media after this morning’s session and said he was feeling good and raring to go, when Bennett gives him the nod.

“Hopefully Wayne picks me this week against the Storm on Friday. It would be a good test for me,” he said.

The forward is likely to come off the bench for the game against the ladder leaders. The Dolphins are in fourth position after a two-point win over the Sharks in round 15.

Pangai Junior has signed with the club for the remainder of this season to bolster the forward pack, which is depleted with the loss of Tom Gilbert and Thomas Flegler to injury.

Before the deal was done, he had to offer Bennett assurances he was serious about an NRL return.

“Obviously, I took some time away from the game and did some boxing. That was very fun, but Wayne just wanted to make sure I was 100 per cent committed to playing under him and playing with the Dolphins,” Pangai Junior said.

“I can only show that through my performances. Hopefully this Friday I can put in a good performance.”

His instructions from the boss are fairly straightforward.

“Be powerful, just be myself, play footy … pretty simple, playing under Wayne. That’s what I like,” Pangai Junior said.

Pangai Junior on Bennett and boxing

Why now?

So, what has changed to make him want to play rugby league at this moment?

“Just being under Wayne again, moving back to Queensland … I’ve always loved my footy … I said those things (about coaches and halfbacks) just to sell tickets,” he said.

The 28-year-old plans to have impact for the Dolphins, when he makes his debut for the club and in the months ahead.

“Just run hard, tackle hard and obviously try to earn the boys’ respect. I’ve watched a lot of the players that play here and it’s crazy that I’m rubbing shoulders with them,” he said.

Those idols include Jesse and Kenny Bromwich.

“Before Jesse retires, I’m going to try to pick his brain. People forget how good he was. He was the Payne Haas before Payne Haas. He’s a player that I loved watching, coming up through the ranks,” Pangai Junior said.

So, is he done with boxing?

“I’ll probably do a couple more shows but other than that, my focus is here at the Dolphins … trying to play finals footy. I haven’t played finals footy in a while. That’s my goal at the moment,” he said.

See the training photo gallery below

By Dominika Lis

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