He may only be in Panthers colours for a short amount of time, but new recruit Tevita Pangai Junior is determined to make it as sweet as can be.
The former Brisbane Broncos star arrived in the Panthers camp on the Sunshine Coast last week, eager to make the most of his time at his temporary home before he switches to Belmore next year.
It’s an unusual circumstance for both the 25-year-old Tongan international and the Panthers club, who are desperate for an edge over fierce rivals Melbourne heading into next month’s Finals campaign.
Speaking with the media for the first time as a Panther a short time ago, Pangai Junior said he’s settling into his new club well thanks to some of his new teammates.
“The first few days have been good. I’ve been walking around the resort seeing a lot of rep players and picking their brains, especially Isaah Yeo who has been really good for me,” he said.
“I’ve mainly been hanging out with the boys that haven’t been playing like Taylan May. He’s a good young kid that’s got a great work ethic. Nathan Cleary as well, he’s been really good.”
While Pangai Junior is doing a tremendous job of making new friends with his teammates, it’s their respect he’s trying to earn first and foremost. The hulking forward, who has a well-documented controversial past, said he’s doing everything he can to be the best version of himself.
“I’m just trying to earn the boys’ respect and do all the little things on and off the field that this great club expects from us. I’ve come here to improve as a player under the great coaching staff and great players around me,” Pangai Junior said.
“I made it pretty clear that I wanted to come to the club even if it was just for a short time… there’s great players here that I can’t wait to play with and put on that Panthers jersey.”
Pangai Junior will make his Panthers debut this Saturday night when Penrith take on the Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium.
Due to suspension, the South Newcastle junior hasn’t played in the NRL since Brisbane’s 46-0 thumping by the Rabbitohs in Round 15.
He’s told Panthers fans not to expect too much straight away but that he’s excited to finally get back on the field. He’ll start from the bench on Saturday.
“I’ve spoken to Ivan a little bit and I’ll probably play short stints off the bench. They’ve already got their team pretty much sorted but I feel like I can add some short stints in there to help them out whenever I can,” Pangai Junior said.
“It’s just awesome being in a winning team, it rubs off on you. I just look around and see what they do training-wise and off the field and they are all really professional. It’s what I want to add into my game and into my life.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.