Kevin Walters has backed Tevita Pangai jnr to return to his best as he prepares to appoint Broncos legend Petero Civoniceva as his mentor.
The Tongan international has been working hard in a Brisbane nursery as he fights his way back into favour with the club after multiple breaches of the "Project Apollo" biosecurity rules earlier in the season.
The 24-year-old foward was fined $30,000 and suspended indefinitely by the NRL. The Broncos put further conditions on Pangai if he was to return to the playing arena in 2021 including that he have a club-approved mentor and that he get a job.
"Petero is not employed just yet but it is my vision for him to help Tevita. Petero can still mentor him regardless and I think he would be an excellent role model and person to assist Tevita," Walters told NRL.com.
"It is all about putting good people around this playing group so they can be not only better players but also better people, and Petero is a great example of what it is all about to be a successful Bronco."
Walters said Pangai’s heart was in the right place and that he had impressed him with his commitment and attitude.
"I think the COVID-19 virus put a lot of restrictions on a lot of people and some handled that better than others but the good thing about Tevita is that he has put his hand up and owned his mistake," Walters said.
"He has taken responsibility for it as well and gone back to the real world to work in a nursery. I think that shows good character in Tevita."
Walters’s ultimate aim is to get Pangai back playing the kind of explosive football that he has shown all too infrequently over the past few seasons.
"Tevita is a very dynamic footballer and very powerful. He is a footballer with an athlete’s body which is sometimes hard to find," he said.
"Tevita is very competitive on the field and that is what I like about him as well."
Walters has made it clear he intends to unify the Broncos internally and with the wider public, a message he said Civoniceva had also lived and breathed.
"Petero is one of the great community leaders and was one of the most popular players at the Broncos with the public because he gave back to the community," Walters said.
"That is what Tevita needs to understand, that when you play for the Broncos it is not just what you can do on the field but what you can do for the wider community of the Broncos – the fans, sponsors, members – and that is where we need that ‘give back’ as such."
Walters’s passion, winning mentality and pride in the Broncos had joint players of the year Pat Carrigan and Payne Haas itching to play under him when they spoke after the club's presentation awards on Wednesday.
"I think you know what Kevvie is going to bring. When you hear him talk he just oozes passion and his love for the jersey, the club and the people of Brisbane and Queensland," Carrigan said.
Walters appointed Broncos coach
"I would love to win a competition in my career. That is why I am playing the game and Kevin has won six [comps]. I am excited to learn off him and to start winning footy games.
"This year we have been to the low of lows and there isn’t anyone better than Kevvie to come in and turn it around."
Haas said having Walters on board would be like "going back to school" as the team aims to turn around its dire wooden spoon season.
"I know Kevvie is going to have high expectations and we have to live up to them. That is the Broncos club in itself," Haas said.
"Just watching some videos of his interviews you see how passionate he is about the club and he is going to put that pride into us and we will start playing for the jersey more.
"I think we lacked playing for the jersey, playing for one another and just being all united. I think Kevvie is going to do that."
Haas also backed Walters to get Pangai back on track.
"It is good to see T here [at the club awards breakfast]. He has been out of the bubble so we haven’t been able to see him but he’s looking trim at 112 kilos now," Haas said.
"I know he will be a big part of our success next year. Tevita is a switched-on person. He had a bit of a muck-up there but he is all sorted and he is training hard."