Tevita Pangai in eye-opening new Broncos development amid Payne Haas dilemma

The development comes amid an injury predicament for the Broncos.

Tevita Pangai Junior's mooted return to the NRL could come sooner than expected, with senior Brisbane Broncos players pushing for coach Kevin Walters to bring the 28-year-old back to Red Hill in light of the club's injury crisis. Pangai shocked the league world last year when he walked away from a monster $750,000 per season contract at the Bulldogs, to take up professional boxing.

But the rumblings have grown louder that Pangai will return to the NRL with the Broncos - the club he spent six season with from 2016. Pangai revealed recently that he'd spoken with master coach Wayne Bennett about potentially joining the Dolphins but said his heart was set on a return to Brisbane and a reunion with his good mate Payne Haas.

On the left is Tevita Pangai Jr and injured Broncos star Payne Haas on the right.
A knee injury to Payne Haas could speed up Tevita Pangai Jr's mooted return to the NRL with the Broncos. Pic: Getty/AAP

Coincidentally, it's the injury to Haas that could see Pangai make his NRL return sooner than expected. Haas was ruled out of Brisbane's round three defeat to Penrith after it emerged he would need surgery on a right knee injury that's likely to sideline the representative prop for around 4-6 weeks.

Haas' absence comes after Brisbane lost a host of classy middle forwards for the 2024 season, with Thomas Flegler (Dolphins), Kurt Capewell (Warriors) and Keenan Palasia (Titans) all moving on after last season. With the depth of the Broncos' pack set to come under examination in the coming weeks, The Courier Mail reports Haas and vice-captain Pat Carrigan are among those pushing for Walters to sign Pangai as soon as possible, to provide cover and experience to a side reeling by a number of injuries to high-profile stars.

The report says Broncos skipper Adam Reynolds - who is also battling an injury niggle that saw him miss the grand final rematch with Penrith - also backs the calls to bring Pangai back to the club. It's understood the senior Broncos players approached Walters about signing Pangai weeks ago, and before the injuries to Haas, Reynolds and Reece Walsh - who suffered a fractured eye socket against Penrith and is expected to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks.

Walters remained coy on Pangai when asked about his potential signing after the brutal defeat to the Panthers. He did hint that the Broncos would be willing to explore the possibility though, with Brisbane's injury crisis perhaps forcing the coach's hand. “At this stage, Tevita’s name hasn’t been discussed, but we’re keeping our options open,” Walters said.

Tevita Pangai ready and willing to answer Broncos call

Pangai told News Corp he's ready to step up for the Broncos and provide some experience if called upon to make his NRL return with the club. “I’m not too sure if the Broncos need anyone but if they want some experience, I’m available,” he said.

“It would be great to play with guys like Payne and Patty. I’m a team player. The best players take less to win premierships, so if Brisbane need me, I’m ready to help out.”

While Pangai's last contact was worth $750,000 per season at the Bulldogs, it's understood he's willing to return for less than $300,000 for the remainder of this season. Pangai's fee would likely be somewhere around the $277,000 mark if he is signed close to the June 30 deadline.

Pictured left to right, Tevita Pangai Jr, Wayne Bennett and Payne Haas.
Tevita Pangai Jr said he talked to Wayne Bennett about potentially joining the Dolphins but wants a return to Brisbane and a reunion with his mate Payne Haas. Pic: Getty

Pangai said while he was flattered by the interest of Bennett at the Dolphins, his heart is set on a return to Brisbane. "I just think the Broncos are the right fit for me at the moment with where they are as a club. I feel as though I have unfinished business there," he told AAP.

"It is either the Broncos or I will continue boxing. I don't want to waste the Dolphins' time or use that as leverage. I just know they won't get the best version of me. If my heart's not in it you will see it in my performances, but I feel I can give my all to the Broncos if they are keen."