After a mixed start to his career at the Bulldogs, explosive back-rower Tevita Pangai Jnr has told new coach Cameron Ciraldo that he can sack him if he lets his standards drop at any point in the 2023 season.
Pangai is currently training for a boxing bout on the Sonny Bill Williams undercard, and has managed to shed 12kg from the weight he was carrying during the NRL season.
This increased level of fitness, combined with a positive training atmosphere and some strong words from Bulldogs head of football Phil Gould, appear to have given Pangai a new level of focus heading into his second Belmore pre-season.
“I just told (Ciraldo) that if I don't come in (during the season) under 110kg, he can pretty much sack me,” Pangai told 9News.
“I'm a man of my word, if I don't go in at 110, I'll leave.
“I don't want to leave this club with the direction it's heading. Cam's a smart man and he knows Gus (Gould) can get a good roster.”
There's no doubting the impact Pangai can make, but the talented forward has at times let attitude and discipline get the better of him throughout his career. He says an honest chat with Gould has refreshed his focus and let him know what's at stake.
“(Gould) told me I need to have a better attitude coming into training. He's not going to accept the stuff I did last year.
“It was a good wake-up call.
“I just got comfortable and let the results get to me. But we're professional athletes and we get paid well to put a performance in for our fans and members. I didn't quite do that last year.”
As well as Gould and Ciraldo, Pangai has pointed to former NRL star Williams as another source of inspiration driving a change in attitude.
“Sonny starts with (a focus on) everyday habits and that's why he's been great for me.
“Every day he's switched on, waking up at the same time and training hard in the morning and then (spending) quality time with the family.”