Tevita Pangai Junior opens up on NRL exit, Eddie Jones Wallabies approach, Kevin Walters relationship

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Tevita Pangai Junior has left the door open for a return to the NRL and has reportedly had preliminary talks with the Broncos about a short-term deal.

The 27-year-old sensationally quit rugby league last year, walking out on a $750,000 contract with the Bulldogs to pursue a career in boxing.

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But rumours of a return began after he was spotted watching on at a Broncos training session recently.

While Pangai Junior toldNews Corp he is only focused on boxing “right now” the same masthead reports he has spoken to Broncos bosses about a possible return to the club after June on a four-month deal.

The Broncos have not tabled an offer, but Pangai Junior is open to juggling his boxing career with the NRL — provided the club can fit him under the salary cap.

The former star prop opened up on his decision to walk away from rugby league, declaring he has “no regrets” and he is “just happy to be back in Brisbane with my life settled again.”

He also broke his silence on the Broncos visit, revealing the reason he was at the training session was because the daughter of his boxing trainer wanted to meet Reece Walsh and Payne Haas.

“That’s why all these rumours started happening about me coming back to the Broncos, but it’s not the first time I have gone to watch Broncos training,” he said.

Pangai Junior, who has signed a two-year fight deal, could very much end up back in the NRL — and believes he still has something to offer — but is determined to throw everything into his boxing career for now.

“I’m committed to boxing but I haven’t ruled out playing NRL again,” he said.

“Right now, I am focused on boxing, but I think I can still definitely mix it in the NRL. I’m only 28 and I’m just hitting my peak as a front-rower.

“Ability wise, I can still do something in the NRL, but I’m taking boxing seriously and respecting the sport.”

He is confident though that he could juggle both sports if he wanted to.

“I don’t hate rugby league. You definitely didn’t see the best of me in the NRL. I feel like I could have done better with my consistency, but I don’t know what the future holds,” he said.

“I think I can succeed in two sports. Boxing and rugby league work together in many ways, I don’t think the training can hurt me in boxing and vice-versa with league.

“If I was to go down that path – mixing boxing and NRL — I don’t think it would be an issue for me.”

Pangai Junior spent his last two seasons in the game with the Bulldogs and had a contract worth $750,000 for 2024. But he walked.

He shut down rumours suggesting general manager Phil Gould paid him out $250,000 and hit back at those who may think he’s driven by money.

“The truth is there was no payout,” he said.

“While most of my discussions were with the coach, I got on with ‘Gus’ (Gould).

“When he found out about my decision, we definitely spoke about it and he said if I ever needed anything, he would be there for me which I appreciated. I was happy that I could leave without any bad blood.

“I didn’t get a cent from the Dogs. Anyone who has dealt with me knows I am very fair at the negotiating table. I’m not driven by money. My parents always said don’t rip anyone off. I’ve had bigger offers in my time in the NRL and I happily took less to play in winning teams.

“I don’t care if people think I’m money hungry. I got to move back to Brisbane and box and the Dogs had $750,000 to play with.

“I think it was a fair deal in the end.”

Pangai Junior dived deeper into his exit from the game revealing his aching desire to move back to Brisbane and the promise he had made the Bulldogs before the 2023 season.

“To be honest, I just hated Sydney. I didn’t enjoy the city,” he said.

“There’s a reason my parents moved out of Sydney when I was 12. The place sucks. I will never move back.

“My big thing was being in Brisbane. People don’t understand how much I love being back home with my wife’s family and being able to work with my (boxing) trainer in Brisbane.

“There’s no issue with Cameron. He knows what we spoke about.

“I had some goals I wrote down and I told them if I didn’t meet them, I would quit the NRL and take up boxing.

“I said to ‘Ciro’ if we didn’t make the top eight, that I would leave the club and I’d go without a payout.

“We had a great relationship. Cameron didn’t want to hold me to those words, but I felt I dropped below my standard at the Dogs and I wasn’t happy with myself.”

It didn’t take long for news of Pangai Junior’s NRL exit to end up on the radar of Wallabies coach Eddie Jones and the pair met “just a few days” after the bombshell was dropped.

“It’s true I spoke to Eddie Jones,” Pangai Junior said.

“He was pretty keen to sign me, he told me to watch some footage of games and I mentioned to him that I had played No.8 and liked watching Toutai Kefu and Willie Ofahengaue (former Wallabies).

“I definitely thought about going to rugby. There’s the Lions tour and the World Cup coming up. I played rugby union as a kid, so I know the game, but I had told the Bulldogs I wanted to test myself in boxing and I wanted to stick to my word.”

Originally published as Tevita Pangai Junior opens up on NRL exit, Eddie Jones Wallabies approach