Bennett holds key to Pangai's future as he tours Newcastle
Wayne Bennett's future is intrinsically linked to that of boom Broncos forward Tevita Pangai jnr, who has met with his old junior club Newcastle amid uncertainty over how long Bennett will remain at Red Hill.
The Newcastle Herald revealed on Friday that Pangai met with Knights coach Nathan Brown and toured the club's facilities earlier this week.
Pangai has repeatedly said this year he won't be leaving Brisbane despite remaining off-contract throughout a stunning run of form, and must wait until November to confirm his next deal when his ties to his current management expire.
The Broncos remain confident Pangai will be at the club in 2019, in no small part thanks to the close bond he shares with Bennett.
However with the master coach and the club at loggerheads over his future beyond next season – with suggestions Bennett may even be pushed out the door this year – Pangai's own career path becomes clouded.
The Knights have the cash for another marquee purchase and Brown's top recruitment priority is for a "power forward", which 21-year-old Pangai jnr fits to a tee.
Bringing Pangai jnr back to his Newcastle stomping ground also holds obvious appeal for the rebuilding club, but while ever Bennett remains at Brisbane they hold a serious bargaining chip.
Bennett was unconcerned about Pangai jnr's meeting with Knights officials on Saturday, joking that "he might be interested in getting a job in the mines down there".
"I'd have to talk to Tevita but he is welcome to go to Newcastle any time he likes," he said.
"I'm not going to have a bodyguard watching where he is going and what he is doing, but he was brought up down there."
Pangai has reiterated on several occasions to NRL.com this year that he won't be leaving the Broncos, who he first joined from Canberra when he sought Bennett's phone number and talked his way into being signed by the seven-time premiership winner.
"We'll get it sorted. I'm not going anywhere," Pangai said in April.
"I'm staying here. I think everyone knows that. It's Wayne Bennett, and as a club we are just a great club and… we are building something special here."
Brisbane have moved impressively to lock down the up-and-coming forwards Bennett has dubbed the best crop he has seen at the club, with Payne Haas, Jaydn Su'a and David Fifita all re-signing alongside veteran Matt Gillett, and Matt Lodge expected to follow suit.
Whether Pangai joins them, and for how long, remains to be seen. The Tongan international's emergence as one of the game's hottest young forwards has him in-demand and poised to cash in wherever his next deal takes him.