New Brisbane coach Kevin Walters believes he can get the best out of Tevita Pangai jnr next season and is confident Joe Ofahengaue and Matt Lodge will remain with the club.
Walters oversaw his first training session in charge of the Broncos on Monday and was glowing in his praise of Pangai after the controversial forward performed strongly in a time trial with other players, including former Sharks and Titans playmaker Albert Kelly.
Former Papua New Guinea captain David Mead, who has been playing with Catalans in the Super League, is in negotiations with Brisbane and Walters believes he and Kelly – on a train and trial contract after four years with Hull FC – will provide experience in the backs.
However, Walters is also looking to the future and he believes he can restore Brisbane's reputation as a club that doesn’t lose players they want to keep – a reference to the defection of star second-rower David Fifita to the Titans.
Representative centre Kotoni Staggs and young gun halfback Tom Dearden are off contract at the end of next season and Walters made it clear – with the pair standing behind at the launch of a five-year deal with Asics as the club’s apparel partner - that he was determined to ensure both re-sign.
Walters wants unity at the Broncos
Despite Ofahengaue and Lodge being linked with rival clubs, Walters also declared both props remain in his plans for next season - along with Pangai, who has been stood down without pay since August and had strict conditions placed on his employment after breaching the NRL’s biosecurity protocols.
"We are really happy with the condition he has come back in and we expect Tevita to be a huge player for us next year," Walters said.
"He has got skills that not many players have got so we are very excited to have him as part of the Broncos group.
"We have seen what he can do in glimpses but we need to see more of that next year and from the discussions we have had we expect that to happen with Tevita.
"He is a good fellow and we will get him going in the right direction so he can be a real asset for us."
Pangai is effectively on a 12-month probation after the Broncos suspended a decision to terminate his contract and ordered him to work in a job organised by a club mentor and avoid posting on social media.
However, Walters described the 24-year-old forward’s attitude as “excellent” and believes he can be an X-factor for the Broncos.
"He has got a lot of ability and we haven’t seen the best of him yet," Walters said.
"It is wonderful to have these sort of players in our club and our organisation and it is up to all the coaching staff and the performance staff to get him in the right frame of mind so that when March comes around next year he is ready to go.
"He could be a real linchpin for our club next season."
Walters is also hoping Staggs, who is recovering from an ACL tear, and 19-year-old Dearden can have an impact on the Broncos in years to come and signalled an intention to extend their time at the club beyond next season.
"The Broncos have a history of not losing players that they want and over the last few years that has changed a bit," Walters said.
"Salary caps and all of those things come into it but we want the boys to stay here and we will be doing everything in our power to make sure they do.
"Kotoni is only just scratching the surface with his career, and I am very excited to be working with Tom. He is a good young Queenslander who we want to see be a 10-year player here.
"It is my job and the rest of the staff to make sure Tom is comfortable here, living in Brisbane and being part of what is going to be a very powerful club."
Dearden just never gives up
Most of the senior players aren’t required to return to training until next month but Ofahengaue, Anthony Milford, Alex Glenn and Corey Oates attended the first session under Walters.
"A lot of those older players came in to day just to be part of it, so that was pleasing from my point of view as well," Walters said.
"It’s virtually a clean slate, we have got a new coaching staff and a new performance staff so we are starting again. We hit the re-start button today and the next four weeks into Christmas is about working really hard with each, supporting each other and getting through the next month."
Walters said he had been in contact with Lodge and expected him to return from leave in mid-December.