Dolphins ready to welcome Pangai Junior

Published 2:36pm 10 June 2024

Dolphins ready to welcome Pangai Junior
Words by Kylie Knight

The new guy, forward Tevita Pangai Junior, wasn’t at Dolphins training due to illness, but his new teammates including halfback Isaiya Katoa are looking forward to welcoming him and the impact he’ll have up front.

Pangai Junior has signed a contract with the club for the remainder of the 2024 season, transferring from QRL club Souths Logan Magpies.

He was expected to join the Dolphins at training this week, but it is unclear when he will play for the club in the NRL.

A club spokesman said he would play ‘when he’s activated’ and ‘when he’s needed’.

The 2023 NSW State of Origin representative, who quit to pursue boxing, is making the move towards being a full-time NRL player again.

The signing of the Tongan international adds starch to the Dolphins’ depleted forward pack, which is missing Tom Gilbert for the season with a knee injury and Thomas Fleger for the foreseeable future with a shoulder problem.

Dolphins Head Coach Wayne Bennett originally recruited Pangai to the Broncos in 2016, where he played 96 NRL games before leaving in 2021.

He had stints with the Panthers in 2021 and the Bulldogs in 2022-23 before making the move to boxing.

Katoa says Pangai Junior will fit in well with the Dolphins side and already has experience playing under Bennett and Head Coach-in-waiting Kristian Woolf.

“It’s awesome. I actually think it’s a great pick-up. We’ve struggled in the middle, losing Tommy Flegler and Tommy Gilbert. I’m excited to have him. He’s a wrecking ball and it will be good to get him out on the field with us,” Katoa says.

“Knowing Wayne, he’ll make sure that Tevita comes in not only fit to play … he’ll make sure his role is understood really well.”

Katoa says he’s certain Pangai Junior is grateful for the opportunity to return to the NRL, particularly with the Dolphins and will make the most of it.

“I know he will take that seriously and I know he will come in here wanting to prove to everyone that he is taking it seriously,” Katoa says.

“I’m so confident that he can come in and be a great addition to our forward pack.”

Dolphins ready to welcome Pangai Junior

Staring down the Sharks

In the meantime, the Dolphins are preparing for a tough game against the Sharks in Sydney, after their round 13 loss to the Raiders at Redcliffe.

“It’s always tough going over to Shark Park and playing over there. They’ve got an awesome crowd that gets behind them and they’re also playing some good footy too … on the weekend, beating the Broncos here at home,” Katoa says.

“It’s something that we’re looking forward to and a challenge we’re up for.”

Katoa, unhappy with aspects of his performance against the Raiders, says he’s focused on what he needs to do to improve.

“I just want to be better defensively. I let a couple of tries in against the Raiders, so it’s something that I’m working on at training with our defensive coach. (Also) building a connection with Herbie (Farnworth) and Euan (Aitken) who are inside and outside of me,” he says.

Katoa was one the last to leave the training field today, doing extra kicking drills with Brisbane Lions’ Daniel Rich.

“He always gives me some review and some feedback on my kicking game from the weekend, working on what I’m doing well but also learning a couple of new things,” he says.

“He’s been here for the last year and a bit, ever since we got into the NRL, he’s been our kicking coach and he’s been awesome. He’s a great mentor and he’s also a great guy. He’s got a lot of knowledge on how to kick a footy,”

Key to a Dolphins win on Thursday night will be containing Sharks star Nicho Hynes.

“Whenever he touches the ball, something magical seems to happen,” Katoa says.

The return of Katoa’s halves partner Kodi Nikorima will help.

“It’s awesome having him. He’s such a cool head outside me. We missed him against the Raiders, but Anthony (Milford) came in and did an awesome job,” Katoa says.

“Having Kodi back, we’ve obviously played a few more games together and probably have a better connection. It’s awesome to get him back this weekend.

“He gives me that much confidence on the back of already getting confidence from Wayne and the coaching staff. We try to play to each other’s strengths. If we can keep working on that, it will not only put our individual performances in better position it’s going to put our team in a better position as well.”

Want to learn more about Isaiya Katoa? Read our one-on-one profile story here

Training photo gallery

Photos by Dominika Lis

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