‘I’m sorry’: Pangai Jr’s plea to save Broncos career
Tevita Pangai Jr has broken his silence to declare his commitment to the Broncos and has appealed for Brisbane bosses not to tear up his contract as he fights to save his career at Red Hill.
In his first interview since being fined and stood down for his COVID breach, Pangai Jr apologised to Broncos fans and NRL hierarchy for the self-confessed selfishness which threatened the entire Telstra Premiership.
The under-fire Pangai Jr also addressed speculation he contacted Roosters chairman Nick Politis to get out of his Broncos deal and denied having any link with the Mongols bikie organisation.
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The Broncos have issued a breach notice to Pangai Jr with a view to sacking him immediately, prompting the Tongan Test star to engage a lawyer to fight his proposed termination.
"I took my job for granted," he said. "I want to say sorry for being selfish. There was no excuse for me to break protocols."
The Broncos board have given Pangai Jr permission to negotiate with rival clubs, but the back-row firebrand has implored hierarchy for a second chance.
"I want to stay at the Broncos," he said.
"I came here as a 19-year-old boy and I'm 24 now. I have been here five years and have grown to love the club.
"A few times I have come off-contract I have had chances to leave and take more money, but I love the club so much and my dad loves the club. He is a big Broncos fan and when the news came out that I was going to get sacked, my dad told me to fight for my contract.
"I'm not too sure what my chances are of staying. I am contracted until the end of 2022. We have had a tough few years, we aren't in the run for the finals this year but I am looking forward to trying to get back as soon as I can.
"I want to get out of isolation and help the boys finish off with a good run and build for next year.
"I don't want to play for any other club. I love Brisbane and I want to play for the Broncos. I want to get back in the winner's circle and try to get another premiership for the Broncos. I owe it to the fans and my teammates to stay."
Pangai Jr rocked the Broncos and the NRL two weeks ago by attending a barber-shop owned by the Mongols bikie organisation. It was a clear breach of the NRL's strict COVID guidelines, triggering a $30,000 fine and his indefinite expulsion from Brisbane's playing bubble.
"It's been a tough time, I deserved the punishment," he said.
"I knew I did the wrong thing, but I have put my hand up and I'm really sorry for my actions.
"I put the game at risk and I would like to say sorry to not only all the Broncos fans, but fans of the game.
"I am really sorry to people who are doing the right thing in the community."
Pangai Jr has assured the Broncos and NRL bosses he has no longstanding association with any bikie organisation.
"I had a friend who goes to the same barber shop where I went to get a haircut," he said.
"There is no association (with bikies).
"Yes, I went there for a hair cut, but doing that meant breaking the guidelines.
"I took it for granted. I have a lot of close friends who worked at the Brisbane Broncos when this pandemic broke out and their jobs were made redundant. It's a privilege and a blessing to be working for the Broncos and I made the selfish choice to break protocols.
"I have never met any of the bikies before. I have no association with them and I won't be going back to that shop ever again."
Pangai Jr was stunned by a media report last week that he had rung Roosters chairman Nick Politis to discuss joining the premiers. In Brisbane's breach notice, the Broncos raised his dialogue with Politis as one reason for his proposed sacking.
But Pangai Jr claims he never asked Politis, also a Broncos shareholder, for a Roosters lifeline.
"Nick Politis is like a mentor to me," he said.
"I have known him for a few years now. He brought my brother (David) to the club, he played lower grades at the Roosters and Nick knows my parents. He is a family friends of ours so I just contacted him for some advice.
"Obviously we have gone through a tough time at the Broncos, I just wanted some advice from him on my footy and where we can improve as a club.
"The advice he gave me I will keep private, but I never tried to get out of the club. We have grown to have a relationship over the years with Nick as a mentor to me."
NRL INTEGRITY PROBE
Pangai Jr is furious with rumours he described the Broncos as a "basket case" in his interview with the NRL integrity unit.
"I never said anything about the club being a basket case, I never used that word, I am just sorry for my actions," he said.
"I have had time to reflect on my actions. I didn't look at the consequences of my actions, I could have put the game under threat for the year and I've realised that.
"My parents are both unhealthy. My dad has diabetes and my mum has heart problems, so if I got coronavirus, I would have put them at risk and I wouldn't have been able to live with that.
"There are lives at risk that are bigger than sport."
The NRL has suggested Pangai Jr will not be allowed to play again this season but the controversial Bronco assured the ARL Commission he can be trusted to follow the rules.
"I can guarantee the NRL I will do the right thing," he said.
"I will put my hand up and cop the punishment from the NRL and my club.
"My job is to play footy and do the right thing and I wasn't doing the right thing. I am remorseful for my actions and poor choices. I can guarantee I will do the right thing and put my best foot forward and fulfil my potential.
"I hope I am a chance of coming back this year. I am coming out now to say I want to make things right with the fans and members.
"I let down my teammates as well and I've apologised to them and owned my mistake.
"The Broncos deserve a premiership and I want to be a part of it.
"I know what this town is like when we start winning again."
Originally published as 'I'm sorry': Pangai Jr's plea to save Broncos career