Pangai Jr out to prove Bennett wrong
AFTER Saturday's loss to the Sea Eagles, Tevita Pangai Jr sat down and watched coach Wayne Bennett's post-match press conference.
And when he heard Bennett say Brisbane's young forwards struggle to be "up" every week, he took it as a personal challenge.
Pangai Jr has been one of the standouts of the Broncos pack this year, continuously stepping up each week as his fellow forwards succumbed to injury.
With Matt Gillett (neck), Josh McGuire (ankle) and now Alex Glenn (knee) all sidelined, Pangai Jr has become the club's Mr Fix-It, rotating between front row, lock and bench.
This week he will move to the second row to replace Glenn.
However Friday's clash against the Roosters isn't just a chance to try out a new role, but to also show Bennett that he can handle the weekly rigours of the NRL, after the supercoach said his young forwards are "not used to being up every week".
"I watched the press conference and I heard him say that," Pangai Jr said.
"I just look at it as a challenge to show him (I can). The biggest thing with Wayne is earning his trust.
"Hopefully us young boys can really show him and earn his trust. We can only do that by performing every week."
Fellow young forwards Jaydn Su'A and Joe Ofahengaue will start alongside Pangai Jr this week, while former Cowboy Patrick Mago has been called on to the bench for his third NRL game.
While Bennett feels his young pack aren't consistent at the moment, Pangai Jr has certainly been impressive to start the season.
He is averaging 101m a game and 18.4 tackles.
The 22-year-old said getting to this point in his career was always part of the plan, after he moved from Canberra to Brisbane in 2016.
He has picked the brains of a number of Broncos greats in this time, including Gorden Tallis and Brad Thorn.
But Pangai Jr, who is off-contract at the end of this season, says Bennett and his teammates are the main reason for his improvement and they are why he wants to stay at the club.
"Me and Wayne always spoke about me trying to develop into this player from the day I signed here," he said.
"It's my third year here at the club. When I first got here he said he'd develop me slowly over the next two years and then the third year hit the ground running.
"The senior players and environment here, they keep me accountable. I came up here with a bit of attacking flair but a pretty crappy attitude in defence. I think that's changed.
"My mindset is defence. That's through the help of (former Bronco) Adam Blair last year and this year I have Matt Gillett and Sam Thaiday keeping me accountable there in my defence.
"If I leave, I'll probably slack off a bit. I'm just trying to make defence my No.1 priority."