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Dirty work, legends' advice prompts Pangai's attitude adjustment

The stark reality of a regular job and wise counsel from a few NRL legends has made Brisbane's Tevita Pangai jnr determined not to squander his undoubted potential.

Pangai admitted he "thought my time was done" at the Broncos after being stood down last August following off-field indiscretions which included disregarding the Project Apollo COVID-19 protocols.

But having been afforded one final chance on the proviso that he met a series of stringent conditions such as a period working at a plant nursery without being paid by the club, he said he was now aware of his good fortune as a footballer.

The 25-year-old forward will return to action in a trial against the Wynnum Manly Seagulls at Kitchener Park on Friday night.

He has been mentored by Brisbane great Petero Civoniceva and trained with another club icon in Corey Parker. Dual international Kiwi superstar Sonny Bill Williams also made contact, having overcome his own troubles early in his career.

"I'm hanging around good people like Petero. I'll just be following him," Pangai said on Thursday.

Petero Civoniceva is chaired from the field after his last Origin in 2012.
Petero Civoniceva is chaired from the field after his last Origin in 2012. ©NRL Photos

"We've had a few chats. Just talking, giving me a few tips. Obviously he was one of the most consistent front-rowers in the game, so I just want to get my game to where he was consistently week in, week out.

"Corey helped me out a bit. I was working [at Carbrook Nursery] down the road from his place, so I'd go to his house early in the morning. We'd go for a long run. Then I'd go and work for eight hours and go in the arvo and do some more training.

"It was tough, but I had good people reach out to me. Sonny Bill reached out to me, Petero, so a lot of good guys in the game, they looked after me ... gave me some advice to get me out of the rut I was in."

Civoniceva, who new coach Kevin Walters appointed to guide Pangai, has been impressed with the Tongan star's attitude.

"Tevita's a tremendous young fella. Obviously, mistakes were made, but the great thing about Tevita is he's acknowledged it and worked hard going out to the community and finding a job and then learning those lessons from there," Civoniceva said.

"I think it's definitely held him in good stead. He's come back in tremendous shape. He's been a real leader in the off-season, I think for the young players around him that really look up to him."

Pangai said his role at the nursery entailed "filling up packets of soil and moving stock and just being in those hot greenrooms".

"But the main thing was I've never been at a job," said the prop, who debuted for the Broncos in 2016. "I came straight out of high school to an NRL system, so that was pretty good to experience."

Broncos forward Tevita Pangai jnr.
Broncos forward Tevita Pangai jnr. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

It's led to him rearranging his priorities.

"Stay focused, keep your eye on prize. Focus on what's important and that's football and my family," he said.

"I feel like I've gone away from that the last couple of years. I just really want to have a good routine, spend as much time with my family and spend time on my craft and my football."

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