SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 16: Canterbury Bulldogs NRL General Manager of Football Phil Gould speaks to the media at Belmore Sports Ground on May 16, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. Gould spoke to the media as he left the ground after the announcement this morning that Trent Barrett had quit the role of Bulldogs head coach. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Canterbury Bulldogs director of football Phil Gould has slammed any idea that an ultimatum forced Tevita Pangai Junior into rugby league retirement.

The Bulldogs' prop confirmed on Tuesday in a bombshell development that he would give the game away at the end of the season to focus his energies on his boxing career.

It came just months after the barnstorming prop made his State of Origin debut for Brad Fittler's New South Wales Blues side, although only lasted a single game before being dropped.

Reports in News Corp after his retirement suggested the Bulldogs had told Pangai Junior that he would either need to be a rugby league player or a fighter, but that he couldn't be both, with the forward already holding a two and zero record in the ring.

Speaking on Channel 9's Six Tackles with Gus podcast though, Gould rubbished the idea, claiming it was an "absolute lie" while also revealing that the forward isn't claiming any money for next year's deal, and instead simply walking away from the game.

“Absolute rubbish, absolute lies. It never happened that way whatsoever. No way in the world did that happen,” Gould said when quizzed by the show's host Matt Thompson on the rumours.

“Nor has he discussed or wanted any settlement for next year's contract, he's virtually walked away from it.

“He said ‘my family think I'm stupid' and I said well, everybody raises their eyebrows these days, people just don't walk away from contracts that lucrative.

“He's his own man, that's what his heart wants to do and he's going to back himself in that sport. Whether he rethinks and comes back to rugby league... You don't know with Tevita.”

Pangai Junior has made 15 appearances for the Bulldogs this year, at times struggling in defence but averaging 121 metres per contest throughout the campaign, despite only playing more than 40 minutes once since Round 16.

In what has been a tough year for the Bulldogs, the 27-year-old has only made a difference on a handful of occasions, and had a poor performance in last weekend's Round 24 beatdown at the hands of the Newcastle Knights. Only playing 27 minutes, Pangai Junior made just 92 metres and made no material difference to Canterbury's plight.

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Gould revealed that the forward dropped the retirement bombshell to coach Cameron Ciraldo and his teammates while being in the middle of apologising for his performance.

“They went to the team meeting (on Tuesday). There was a little bit of an honesty session about who did what and Tevita gets up and apologises for his performance the day before, which is not unusual for a player if he's had a bad day,” Gould said.

“He said, ‘I'm sorry, I've had some personal issues, I don't want to delve into it, but I probably didn't turn up with the right focus, and I didn't turn up with the right attitude and it sort of got away from me and I should have done better. In fact, I think this next three weeks will be my last three games and I'm going to give rugby league away.'

“It stunned everyone.”

Gould has also confirmed there will be no backflip on the news after it was confirmed by the club on Tuesday night, with the 27-year-old to play in the final three games of the year before hanging up the boots for good, having previously spent time with the Brisbane Broncos and Penrith Panthers.

His exit from the Bulldogs will free up more than $700,000 in salary cap space next year for the club who are desperate to turn things around with yet another bottom-four finish looming.

The club will be unlikely to sign any major names for next season given the lateness of the decision and the small number of stars left on the open market, but could elect to forward pay a number of contracts to set their sights on gaining a major star for 2025 and beyond.