No regrets for Tonga star Pangai despite NSW revival
Brisbane wrecking ball Tevita Pangai jnr has no regrets about committing himself to Tonga despite watching NSW start what may become a successful new era under Brad Fittler.
The 22-year-old forward supports the decision of Broncos teammate Joe Ofahengaue, who is a chance of being called into the Maroons team on Monday, to turn his back on the Mate Ma'a.
Newcastle-raised Pangai, the Junior Kangaroos skipper in 2016 and part of the Emerging NSW squad a few months ago, said he can't wait to get into camp with the Tongans for the Pacific Test against Samoa next Saturday, the day before several Broncos teammates will be playing in Origin II a few kilometres away the next day.
"I feel like I have made the right decision although playing in front of 90,000 is the pinnacle of our sport," he said, referring to Origin I in Melbourne.
"I'm pretty passionate about playing for Tonga after last year's World Cup and the support we have been getting around the world from fellow Tongans. Even when I go back to LA, San Francisco or Las Vegas [while visiting family in the USA] I talk to people who have taken to us and the sacrifices Jason Taumalolo and all those guys made.
"Everyone is different. Joe is a through and through Queenslander. I don't blame him for wanting to play for Queensland. Thirty-grand [dollars per match] and putting on that Queensland jersey is a big incentive and I understand where he is coming from."
Pangai will go head to head with Tonga's big man Andrew Fifita during Saturday's clash with Cronulla at Southern Cross Group Stadium with a mission to prove a point on the eve of being teammates against the Samoans.
To achieve that, he knows he needs to get rid of some of the poor elements that have crept into his game after being told by coach Wayne Bennett to pull his head in and cut the aimless emotion and sledging of opponents.
After being complimented on his form while being interviewed by the media, Pangai said: "The public think I'm playing good but Wayne knows there are areas that I need to fix. There's some yahooing I need to get out of my game."
He said Bennett told him to display more humility.
"I don't need that stuff in my game. You don't see the greats of the game carrying on like that," he said in reference to sledging Storm players last Sunday.
"You don't see Darius [Boyd] or Sam Thaiday carrying on after they did a good thing in the game.
"I still want to play with aggression and play hard. Taumalolo is a perfect example; he plays hard but doesn't have that tag [of being over the top] on him."
He laughed that Fifita taught him during the World Cup "you don't have to prepare well to play a good game of football" but knows the Cronulla prop will be out to stamp his authority against him on Sunday.
"He's a competitor; I just like the way he fits around the boys; he's funny but he just competes when it comes to game day.
"Like in round two against Taumalolo, I just want to get one over my fellow Tongan teammates."
Tonga take on Samoa at Campbelltown Stadium at 7.10pm on Saturday June 23, after the PNG v Fiji clash at 4pm.