Pangai pushing to make lasting impact
He was the one-man wrecking crew sent on short missions to seek and destroy any defensive frailties his coach thought could be exposed, but Tevita Pangai Jnr is approaching 2017 with more long-term goals in mind.
Frustrated at the lack of NRL opportunities in Canberra, Pangai picked up the phone to ask Bennett some advice and in a matter of weeks had signed to play under the master coach in Brisbane.
The pair discussed the 2016 season being one of development for the enormously gifted back-rower but in Round 12 he was elevated to the 17 in the absence of Brisbane's Origin stars and played 33 minutes for 114 metres and two offloads.
The 20-year-old played a further 13 top grade games in 2016 but only once for longer than he did in his debut (37 minutes against the Bulldogs in Round 16), averaging a tick under 23 minutes from his 14 NRL games to date.
Under the watchful eye of Bennett, assistant coach Jason Demetriou and head of high performance Jeremy Hickmans Pangai is spending pre-season trying to build a motor that not only roars at full pace but can run for much longer without the need for a pit stop.
"I don't want to be coming on and playing five or 10 minutes. I want to be coming on and playing a good solid 20 each way," said Pangai, who has been joined at the Broncos this year by his older brother Moses.
"That's what we're working on this pre-season, getting fit so I can build a motor that can allow that.
"I don't want to lose too much weight because I want to keep that big body in the team so hopefully I can keep that big body but keep fit at the same time.
"I was probably the last picked on the bench [in 2016] so hopefully I can come on first off the bench or second. Hopefully not playing the last 20 minutes, hopefully playing 20 each way in the middle, that's where I want to be.
"Last year was more of a development year for me. I spoke to Wayne about that and hopefully this year I can have a bigger role in the team."
A major focus for Pangai is his defensive reads and workload when under fatigue and he has some voices in his head pushing him to be in position when his team needs him to be there.
Now that veteran Corey Parker is no longer at the club Maroons and Kangaroos representative Josh McGuire has taken an active interest in young forwards such as Pangai, Herman Ese'ese, Salesi Funaki and teenager Payne Haas.
Along with Bennett, McGuire is the man whom Pangai is listening out for when pre-season training is at its most demanding.
"When I'm under fatigue Wayne's just trying to talk to me a lot," Pangai said.
"Wayne won't be out there when I'm on the field so I need to learn how to talk to myself or get someone in the team like Josh McGuire to just keep talking to me.
"I wouldn't say he's more mature [this year] but he's grown a lot. He's helping a lot of the younger boys and taking us out and doing extra wrestling and extra defence.
"That's awesome to have a guy like him when I'm coming up."
As for any dietary adjustments in order to enhance his fitness, Pangai concedes that it's big brother who is dominating the kitchen at home.
"He's a better cook, he's always on the 'barbie'," Pangai explained. "I try and make a salad but it's mainly just meat.
"We're living together at the moment but he's going to find his own house soon.
"He's settling in well but we don't really do extras, the club doesn't allow us to.
"We just try and enjoy each other's company in our downtime."