Catch as Broncos chase Pangai Jr
TEVITA Pangai Jr is set to ink a new deal with the Broncos as the Tongan tearaway prepares to stamp himself as an international force in Saturday night's historic Test against Australia.
Tongan teammate Jason Taumalolo has warned the Kangaroos to brace for Pangai Jr to "destroy" the world champions when he makes his starting debut for Mate Ma'a at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium.
But when the dust settles on Tonga's inaugural clash with Australia, Pangai Jr will turn his attention to another critical assignment - sorting out his future in the NRL for 2019.
The Broncos forward's desire to seek long-term contractual certainty in the NRL has been hampered by a personal management dispute, which has left Pangai Jr unable to sign any deal before November 1.
The protracted saga has opened the door for rival poaching bids, with Knights coach Nathan Brown last month outlining his interest after Pangai Jr flew south to inspect Newcastle's set-up.
But Pangai Jr is expected to remain loyal to the Broncos. Because of salary-cap pressures, the parties have discussed only a 12-month extension, which would leave Pangai Jr and departing Broncos coach Wayne Bennett free agents for 2020.
There is a view Pangai Jr is so loyal to Bennett he may eventually follow the super coach elsewhere, but the Broncos are supremely confident the Tongan torpedo will be at Red Hill next season.
Pangai Jr's value will skyrocket if he can dominate on Saturday night and Taumalolo believes the 22-year-old will relish a showdown with Kangaroos and Broncos colleague Josh McGuire.
"Tevita is young at heart but come game day he will be a big part of the reason why we will go alright," said Taumalolo, to whom Pangai Jr is so often compared.
"Everyone (in the Tongan set-up) holds Tevita in high regard with how he carries himself.
"We're hoping he will turn up and destroy the defence and hopefully he does that.
"He and Josh McGuire are Broncos teammates so it will be good to see them go up against each other."
The Tongans are currently rated a two-tier nation by the RLIF, but an impressive display against Australia, on the back of their World Cup semi-final heroics, could see Mate Ma'a promoted to tier-one status.
Retired Australian halfback Johnathan Thurston believes the likes of Taumalolo, Pangai Jr and Andrew Fifita have given Tonga the class to be ranked alongside Australia, England and the Kiwis.
"We will find out this weekend if they deserve it (tier-one status)," Thurston said.
"With what they achieved throughout the World Cup, it was outstanding, so they are not too far off being a tier-one nation.
"They will be fired up for it, so our boys (Australia) need to be a lot better than they were against New Zealand last week."
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