Revealed: Banned Bronco's shock new job
Broncos star Tevita Pangai Jr is learning the grass isn't always greener - literally.
Sport Confidential can reveal Pangai Jr has taken up a day job at a Brisbane garden nursery as part of his punishment following the bikie-shop COVID breach which put his Brisbane career in jeopardy.
The Broncos wanted Pangai Jr to be productive after he was stood down from playing duties by the NRL.
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In the past month, the Tongan international has been placed at a local plant nursery where 'TPJ' is getting his hands dirty with blue-collar work far removed from his luxurious $675,000 contract at the Broncos.
It is Brisbane's way of giving Pangai Jr an insight into how the other half live. To his credit, Pangai Jr has not shirked his duties, throwing himself into his green-thumb labour as he plants the seeds for a career fightback at the Broncos next season.
Pangai Jr is also transforming his body. Broncos forwards coach Corey Parker has taken on a mentoring role doing conditioning work. The 24-year-old has lost at least five kilos and is relishing the training regime that made Parker a 347-game Broncos warhorse.
Pangai Jr was looking lean at Brisbane's awards ceremony on Wednesday, where he was sporting some luscious looking hair which suggested he hasn't had a trim since his infamous bikie barber shop visit.
Broncos board member Darren Lockyer said Brisbane bosses were keen to see Pangai Jr stay in shape ahead of his make-or-break season in 2021.
"Tevita is having a good life experience at present, he is getting some perspective on life," Lockyer said.
"It's something we all need and get at times, but Tevita is enjoying it and we are really happy with his commitment thus far.
"This period will help him grow as a person. He will get some downtime with his family in Canberra soon before coming back with a clear focus on 2021."
STAGGS ON THE MOVE
Broncos star Kotoni Staggshas dropped a bomb on Brisbane after refusing to commit to the club long-term.
The Broncos are in danger of losing their most explosive player as he considers leaving Red Hill.
At this stage, Staggs is more likely to leave the Broncos than stay beyond 2021 - although the appointment of Kevin Walters as coach could change the situation.
The dressing room has not been a happy place at Red Hill this year which contributed to the sacking of coach Anthony Seibold in August.
Staggs, 21, will be one of the NRL's hottest free agents from November 1 when he can officially sign with a rival club for 2022.
He will miss half of next season as he recovers from a major knee injury, but the future NSW Origin player has shown the talent he possesses and will be chased hard by rivals.
We asked Staggs about his future this week, to which he replied: "I'm still here for one more year - I'm locked in."
When pressed on whether he wanted to stay at the Broncos beyond 2021, Staggs said: "Whatever happens, happens. I can't tell.
"I'm here next year and I want to do a job for the Broncos."
It was hardly a glowing endorsement for the club that just collected the wooden spoon.
KEVVIE'S NEW STAFFERS
Broncos coach Kevin Walters has finalised his team of assistants with John Cartwright and Terry Matterson to be his right-hand men next season.
The Red Hill revolution is in full swing with Walters coming to terms with Cartwright and Matterson, with the Broncos hoping to make a formal announcement in the coming days.
The 55-year-old Cartwright has extensive experience, having worked as an assistant to premiership-winning coaches Ricky Stuart and Paul Green at the Roosters and Cowboys respectively.
Cartwright also had seven largely successful seasons as Gold Coast's foundation coach, leading to the Titans to a preliminary final appearance in 2010.
Matterson, meanwhile, knows the Broncos culture well, amassing 156 games for the club as a foundation player. He went on to coach Castleford for seven seasons before working as an assistant at the Cowboys and Titans. He also coached the USA Tomahawks at the 2013 World Cup.
Walters will not be signing any further assistants, with the Broncos hoping Craig Bellamy will come on board 12 months later as coaching director to form an Awesome Foursome team in 2022.
FIFITA'S QUICK ESCAPE
David Fifita arrived at the Brisbane Broncos' awards ceremony on Wednesday sporting a moon-boot and nearly broke a leg on his way out.
While retiring Broncos players Darius Boyd and Matt Gillett received official send-offs during the event, and Jordan Kahu's contribution was acknowledged, there was no mention for Fifita, who will join the Gold Coast Titans next season.
Recovering from ankle surgery, Fifita kept a low profile during the two-hour brunch before making a quick escape as soon as the formalities ended.
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COPS CHASE BRIMSON
Gold Coast star AJ Brimson was doorknocked by Queensland police last week to ensure he was quarantining.
Titans players have had to serve two weeks of home quarantine since finishing their season with a spectacular 36-6 win against Newcastle at Cbus Super Stadium.
The fact they played a NSW-based team meant their two weeks of quarantine started that night and will finish today (Friday).
"The cops checked on me last week," Brimson said.
"The only way out of the house is to train so I've been doing a few gym sessions.
"I want to stay in shape but it's also good to just get out of the house."
Brimson will have two weeks out of the bubble before entering Queensland Origin camp.
He will move house this weekend and plans to spend plenty of time at the beach before being locked up again.
TITAN HIT IN THE HIP POCKET
Ash Taylor's promising fightback this season has ended on a sombre note with the Titans star to undergo hip surgery.
Gold Coast's $1 million man was ruled out of Queensland's train-on squad during the week as he prepares to go under the knife for some clean-out work on his hips.
Taylor's pre-season in 2019 was disrupted by shoulder surgery, but it is understood his hip procedure is not as serious and will not seriously impact on his upcoming pre-season.
The 25-year-old had a nightmare 2019 campaign, taking time out because of mental-health issues, but Taylor produced some sublime efforts this season.
He played 19 games and looks to have rediscovered his playmaking mojo under new coach Justin Holbrook.
Another Bennett has brought up 20 years of loyal service at the Brisbane Broncos.
Cath Bennett celebrated two decades of employment at the Broncos this year and was formally acknowledged by departing CEO Paul White at Wednesday's awards ceremony.
The daughter of foundation coach Wayne Bennett, who coached the Broncos for 25 years in total, was White's assistant during his decade at Red Hill.
While White and Wayne fell out spectacularly during the coach's sacking in 2018, Cath Bennett has remained employed at the club and entrusted with managing White's movements.
Salary cap manager and company secretary Louise Lanigan was also acknowledged for her 20 years of service.
PRANKSTER BECOMES COACH'S PET
Storm prankster Brandon Smith was not punished for making coach Craig Bellamy's grandson cry.
In fact, he has somehow become the 'coach's pet' following the prank that went viral.
Smith was filmed pinching a young boy's lollipop as the Storm walked out of their Sunshine Coast resort to head to Brisbane for last Saturday's final against Parramatta.
Smith quickly handed back the lollipop but it didn't stop the child from bursting into tears, who was later revealed to be Bellamy's grandson.
Smith was awarded "goose of the week" honours by his teammates, but Bellamy hasn't black-listed him.
"If anything he has become the coach's favourite, it's hard to dislike him," said Storm football chief Frank Ponissi.
"Blokes like him, Cameron Munster and Josh Addo-Carr are so important in this environment. You need guys like that to break it up and come up with silly things.
"They are so important for the morale and energy of the team."
MORE MAROONS IN WAYNE'S WORLD
New Queensland coach Wayne Bennett is looking to add to his off-field staff for next month's Origin series.
Bennett has already added Neil Henry as his primary assistant, sacking his former Broncos centre Justin Hodges in the process, and video analyst Scott Barker is now on his radar.
Barker was Bennett's trusted video analyst during his successful years at the Broncos and Dragons. Barker also served as a performance analyst for former Australia coach Tim Sheens during the Kangaroos' 2014 Four Nations campaign.
Bennett is not completely overhauling Kevin Walters' Maroons unit. He will retain respected strength-and-conditioning guru Alex Corvo and Gavin Allen stays on as team manager, while Petero Civoniceva will remain as a key advisor and mentor for Queensland players.
MOORE MEETS HIS MATCH
Queensland Origin legend Billy Moore has met a kindred spirit ... in the form of his hip surgeon.
The man famous for the "Queenslander!" chant underwent a hip replacement recently following years battling pain from old wear-and-tear footballing injuries.
Underlining his toughness, Moore has managed to run several marathons despite the pain in his hips.
But he was truly blown away when he met with Brisbane-based Patrick Weinrauch, one of Australia's top hip surgeons, to discuss the operation.
Aware of Moore's Maroon passion, Weinrauch produced his scalpel which was inscribed with the word: "Queenslander" ... immediately putting Billy at ease.
ZERAFA TALKS A GOOD GAME
The Tim Tszyu camp believes Michael 'Pretty Boy' Zerafa is running scared from the son of Kostya.
Tszyu is struggling to find someone to fight him after his clinical disposal of Jeff Horn in August, with Dennis Hogan and Zerafa mentioned as possible options.
Hogan has a fight in America coming up, while Zerafa is due to fight 45-year-old Anthony 'The Man' Mundine on November 14.
Zerafa stands to pocket $35,000 from the Mundine fight, but the Tszyu camp was so keen to entice him it is understood they offered Pretty Boy $75,000 to jump in the ring.
Despite being offered twice as much, Zerafa has knocked back the Tszyu camp to pursue his showdown with Mundine.
Before the Horn fight, Zerafa claimed Tszyu had the "body of a 12-year-old girl", but the son of Kostya hammered 'The Hornet' in his dream of eventually winning a world title.
Tszyu's manager Matt Rose has held talks to fight American-based Australian Lenny Zappavigna, but nothing is locked in at this stage.
Originally published as Revealed: Banned Bronco TPJ's shock new job