Tonga or NSW? Pangai jnr's chat with Fifita
December 21, 2018
Tevita Pangai jnr cuts an imposing figure on the football field but his decision to make himself available for NSW next year came with a level of nerves after the famous Tongan pact to remain together in 2017.
Along with other hopeful selection candidates, Pangai joined Brad Fittler's successful Origin squad at Blues headquarters on Friday as the players reflected on their performances one last time as a group and began minor preparations for their series defence.
The Tongan international, who has represented the Blues at under 16s, 18s and 20s level, revealed a conversation with former NSW prop Andrew Fifita encouraged him to chase his State of Origin dream next season.
"I spoke to Andrew and the difference between me and him is he knows what it's like to play for NSW and I don't," Pangai said.
"He just said do whatever your heart tells you and he won't look at me any differently. I'm happy that I got that word from him because it was pretty scary to front a senior player and get good advice from him.
"When I was in Tonga I forgot that feeling but when I was watching the Origin series I felt like I was missing something. It was a long process, I came off a high at the World Cup and I enjoyed it so much when Origin came around I was like have I made my decision too early.
"I'm a proud Tongan but also proud Australian and New South Welshman, when Freddie gave me the chance to come in I thought about what I was as a kid playing for NSW as a junior and the hate that we had for Queensland.
"I want to know what it feels like. That's definitely a goal. We'll see how we go."
Fittler welcomed Pangai's availability and hinted his prospects for selection in 2019 were promising.
"Really looking forward to how he goes this year. He's a got a new coach ... and he's a really talented player," he said.
"He has and he grew up in Newcastle so there's no better place in Australia for where they love their footy. He also gets to play for Tonga at the end of the year so State of Origin won't impede on that."
Pangai is determined to remain on the park next season after a series of hamstring injuries plagued him in 2018 despite a strong impact at Red Hill.
He said his decision to re-sign for only one year at the Broncos was more about wanting to test himself than secure a deal elsewhere in 2020 after media reports suggesting he could follow Wayne Bennett to Redfern.
"That's not the deal, I'm just focused on 2019 and getting fit for the season," he said.
"I was always going to stay regardless if he was there or not, I love the Broncos as a club and organisation. When I heard Anthony Seibold was coming I was excited with what he's done at South Sydney.
"There's plenty of time for me to get a good contract so hopefully that's after next year. I just couldn't get on the park consistently so I was playing games injured. Hopefully I don't do that next year and can play week-in-week-out from the start, just try to keep fit and find ways to get better."