Broncos face battle to keep Pangai at Red Hill
The Broncos face a multi-million dollar battle to retain off-contract prop Tevita Pangai Jr in the wake of his rampaging performance against the Cowboys on Friday night.
Tevita the Terminator terrorised North Queensland, scoring a try, setting one up, running for 115 metres and outmuscling Jason Taumalolo to spearhead Brisbane's 29-10 derby victory at Suncorp Stadium.
It was a performance that exhibited why Pangai Jr can become the most explosive forward in the code and why a stack of NRL rivals will be lining up in the coming months to poach the 113kg powerhouse.
Brisbane's salary-cap pressures last season put the squeeze on Pangai Jr. Due to a protracted dispute with his former manager, Pangai Jr was unable to finalise his future until last December, making him the final player in Brisbane's full-time squad to sign a new contract.
Ultimately, Pangai Jr opted for only a 12-month extension, putting the Tongan international back on the open market this season and amplifying pressure on the Broncos to keep him for a longer term.
If Taumalolo is a $1 million player at the Cowboys, the similarly-built Pangai Jr is worth at least $800,000 a season. The 23-year-old last year attracted interest from several clubs, including the Roosters and Newcastle, and they are certain to return hunting again if Pangai Jr sustains the demolition work that crushed the Cowboys.
Pangai Jr insists a new contract is the last thing on his mind as he strives for consistency following a series of frustrating hamstring injuries ahead of this Thursday's clash with the Dragons at Suncorp Stadium.
Asked if he is worried about his future, he said: "No, I'm just doing my job every week for the team and trying to earn my teammates' respect.
"I'm happy here at the Broncos, but if I want to get paid, I have to avoid injury and stay on the field.
"I used to come in last for training but now I've changed. I'm becoming more professional.
"I'm doing a lot of sprint work here at the club. The conditioning staff are working hard on my running technique and my hamstring. I'm not so much faster but I'm more confident in my hamstrings.
"'Seibs' (Broncos coach Anthony Seibold) wants me to run hard and tackle hard. I have a simple job."
Pangai Jr's role may be simple but it's brutally effective. Few forwards in the NRL possess his fusion of power, pace and strength and he credited his display in the Queensland derby to the Cowboys hulk he outpointed, Tongan teammate Taumalolo.
"I call him the King of Tonga for a reason," Pangai Jr said.
"Jase has taught me a lot.
"I used to try and get a bit too fancy but Jase was always in my ear in Tonga camp (during the 2017 World Cup) saying run the ball first, run hard first. That's his strength and that's my strength.
"Ever since then, that's what I have been focusing on. I'm not trying to put too many things in my head with passing ... I'm just running the ball."