Months after being selected to represent the NSW Blues in Game 1 of the 2023 State of Origin series, Pangai Junior confirmed a bombshell announcement that he would step away from the game to pursue a career in boxing.
The 27-year-old has played 34 games with the Bulldogs since joining them at the start of the 2022 season. That came after a short six-game stint at the back-end of 2021 with the Penrith Panthers and 96 games with the Brisbane Broncos between 2016 and 2021, in which he would play under Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett.
Not convinced he has finished his time in the rugby league arena, Wayne Bennett has welcomed the Bulldogs forward to join the Dolphins if he ever decides to return back to the sport.
“I won't knock Tevita Pangai back if he wants to come to the Dolphins,” said Bennett via News Corp.
“At this stage, I've had no conversations with Tevita. I'm not privy to anything going on with him. He hasn't spoken to me, we haven't crossed paths and I didn't know he was doing this (leaving the NRL to take up boxing).
“I have no idea if Tevita is moving back to Brisbane or taking up boxing full-time. Tevita better be a good boxer because he won't make a lot of money if he ain't. He is on a big contract in rugby league, so I don't quite understand why he has done it, but anyway, it's his choice.
“If Tevita is keen to play rugby league again, I would certainly be interested in talking to him, but I'm just letting him go on his own path right now.”
Walking away from a contract where he would earn $750,000 next season, there were reports that he would earn a severance of a third of that salary to leave the Bulldogs. However, The Sydney Morning Herald disclosed that he would instead receive zero from the club for next year after announcing his retirement and decision to pursue boxing.
“Tevita has walked away with nothing, and to say anything else is not true. He operates differently to most people – he's from outside the box – and this is how he wants to do it," his brother David told the publication.
This followed Phil Gould squashing reports earlier this week from News Corp that the Bulldogs gave him an ultimatum that he would either need to be a rugby league player or a fighter.
“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.”