Tevita Pangai Jnr has revealed how he cut down on junk food binges after telling coach Wayne Bennett that he wanted to be a starting prop the day after last year’s preliminary final loss to Melbourne.
Bennett rewarded the 22-year-old with a starting position against St George Illawarra in round one where he was player’s player in a disappointing loss, and then Pangai Jnr was outstanding at key moments of the 24-20 win over the North Queensland on Friday night where his first half try turned the match.
In the off-season, Pangai Jnr said he decided to take another step towards his goal of being a regular starter by ditching some bad habits.
"I went over to America and tried to stay away from all the takeaway food and I worked hard in the pre-season," Pangai Jnr said after the Broncos win.
"I remember one pre-season down in Canberra where I got up to 127 kilos and you can’t do that being a professional.
"Darius [Boyd] is pretty good with his diet so I just watch what he eats, and Adam Blair last year. They were pretty hard on me with my diet. I used to go hard on the Maccas, KFC and all the bad stuff…and Tongan food.
"I reckon I could finish a dinner box on my own pretty easily."
Pangai Jnr told NRL.com he was now "112 or 113 kilos on a good day and probably on a Monday I’m 116", while showcasing his new diet.
"Now I am eating heaps of greens, chicken and oats in the morning. I’m eating good stuff and staying away from sugar," he said.
He knew he had to put his money where his mouth is after making a plea to his coach about his desire to be a regular starter.
"I spoke to Wayne the day after we lost to Melbourne and I said ‘I’m going to look after myself in the off-season and go to the World Cup and do my best’,” he said.
"I didn’t know Jason [Taumalolo] was going to play but as soon as he got named I wanted to learn off him and he taught me a lot of things about competing, running hard and doing the best for the team.
"It was a terrible flight back from Melbourne and I told [Wayne] I wanted to start next year. I didn’t know what the plans were with Jack Bird coming here but I told him my intentions to start."
Pangai Jnr said he was learning plenty off Matt Lodge and Josh McGuire on forward play, while adding why he was aiming to emulate two of of his World Cup teammates on a few key points.
Match: Broncos v Cowboys
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Venue: Suncorp Stadium
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"Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo have what I want…premierships, prop of the year, lock of the year, [a] Dally M," he said.
"I want to be a Bronco for life so I am going to work hard to do that.
"I want those accolades. I am at the bottom of the food chain at the moment but I want what they’ve got."
Pangai Jnr told NRL.com he hung out with Taumalolo in the Tongan camp and watched his diet which now includes three days a week of vegetarian meals.
"I ate what he ate," Pangai Jnr said.
"He was eating really well. We blew out a bit in Tonga though because it is rude in our culture to say no, but as soon as we got to camp we knuckled down and ate really well."
Pangai Jnr said he was considering ditching the diet and celebrating the win over the Cowboys with some of his old favourites.
"I might go and have a couple of quarter pounders after this," he grinned.