Tevita Pangai Junior, eh? Would you pay – give us your best Dr Evil – one million dollars for the big whacking meat man?
Is he the new JT as in Jason Taumalolo?
Is he Shane Webcke morphed with Petero Civoniceva?
Is he worth the same as Kalyn Ponga, Cooper Cronk or James Tedesco in terms of his impact on the field and upon the home ground’s turnstiles?
Or is he just a very naughty boy?
Pangai’s hit on Cronk, while the champion halfback was looking the way his pass had gone some half-second or so – in rugby league play-time eons – before, was late and bad, and cheap and nasty and a few other things besides.
And our Tevita will be charged for … something. Rough play. Whacking someone in the back while they weren’t looking.
Being dangerous. It’ll be a grade-one dangerous action. Blind belting. The worst kind.
He’s got a bit of form, Tevita, so could be a few weeks out. Depends who’s on the judiciary. If he’s lucky, it’ll be the blokes who got Billy Slater into the grand final after his shoulder charge.
Anything could happen in rugby league, the greatest game of all.
Slater was able to make a case that people actually nodded along to, much less believed and agreed with, that he hadn’t shoulder-charged old mate. Ha.
I’m glad he made the grand final.
But it was a shoulder charge, and they’re not allowed, and rugby league put Slater in the grand final in his final-ever game because rugby league has a heart.
And the judiciary people aren’t, you know, like, judges or whatever; they’re blokes who played footy.
So where does Tevita’s whack action sit on the Disgrace-O-Meter. Where do you rate the old whack the halfback while he’s looking the other way well after passing the ball trick?
Is it worse than a grapple tackle, crusher or chicken wing?
Is it up there with a punch in the face?
An eye gouge? A testicle tug?
An on-field examination of your innermost privates by respected proctologist Dr Hopoate?
Or is just rugby league?
Halves, especially those as good and thus pivotal as Cooper Cronk, will always have these big units throwing themselves at them. It’s a plan. They’re told to do it.
And they’ll get it wrong occasionally, as Iosia Soliola did when he coat-hangered Billy Slater late in Canberra a few years ago. It looked bad and was bad, and old Sol felt shame, for he is a nice man.
I’m not sure if Tevita felt shame for whacking into Cronk while he wasn’t looking well after he’d passed the ball, but it didn’t look like it.
It looked like he was just thinking, “Oops”.
And that’s about it.
TV types – and you’d pretty much completely prostrate yourself in deference to Andrew Johns and Johnathan Thurston on this one given they were the most targeted playmakers of their generations – said it was bad, and late, and a few things, and that something has to be done.
And there were exhortations by types that if Tevita was going to whack someone, whack into someone his own size, for it would be fairer.
But fairness wasn’t the point. It’s pro footy – hit and be hit. You’re on the field, you’re fair game.
Anyway, big units do this stuff every tackle. And there’d be little point in whacking Isaac Liu, for example, because (a) it would be very hard to hurt Isaac Liu because he is made of iron, and (b) he’s not the playmaker and thus the man you need to hurt in the first place.
Cronk and other gun playmakers of this time in our lives are the most targeted people on the field because they are the ones most capable of orchestrating points against you.
They win many Dally M points because of it. They’re the quarterbacks. They own results, as the Twitter adulation for Cronk and Luke Keary would show and that of Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima would not.
The Broncos don’t have a halfback? That’s a bit silly isn’t it.
The Roosters do. One of the greats.
If you’ve got Thurston and Johns up in the pantheon with the Immortals, for mine Cronk’s on the next level down with Ricky, Alfie, Sterlo, Tommy, Billy and Keith, and you’d be leaving out a few like Brandy.
Next rung from the Immortals. Pretty bloody good.
Look at Cronk last night – absolute masterclass. He’s been doing this stuff so well for so long it’s like a cliche how good he is. And thus he’s being belted about, late, and … y’know. It’s going to keep happening. At least until it’s not allowed.
I mean, it’s not allowed. But it’s not not allowed enough that the likes of Tevita will not size up Cooper Cronk’s back ribs and think, “Hmm-mm, I’m gonna have me some of them”.
So okay, let’s change the rules and upload the loading or whatever they do, and make late-hitting someone who’s passed the ball against the rules, a lot. And something that will get you million-dollar whack-man long weeks on the sideline.
And then someone will do it, and it’ll be the game before a grand final or Origin fixture, and there’ll be howls of indignation that Pangai’s little love tap wasn’t really that bad, and didn’t Billy Slater pull off something almost as bad by bunching his shoulder and charging into the winger and knocking him into touch and whiplashing his head et cetera? Does it matter he was looking and/or expecting it?
Probably it does.
And here we are. And it seems our Tevita’s gonna ride a plastic seat in the stand for the next X weeks, and you wonder if he’s worth a million to do it.