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'He was pretty keen to sign me': NRL heavyweight reveals Eddie made Wallabies poaching attempt

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Editor
3rd February, 2024
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Former NRL enforcer turned professional boxer Tevita Pangai junior has revealed that Eddie Jones approached him to switch to rugby union midway through last year.

In a sprawling interview with the Courier-Mail, the former Bulldog said that he had a sit down with the then-Wallabies coach just days after quitting Canterbury to take up a boxing career, with the coach attempting to lure him to the other code.

“It’s true I spoke to Eddie Jones,” said the former Tonga and NSW prop.

“Simon Poidevin is a friend of mine, he helped me get a scholarship to Newington College when I was 12 years old and he helped set up a chat with Eddie.

“We had been trying to set up the meeting for a while, but we finally spoke just a few days after I announced my retirement from the NRL.

“Eddie was great. I really enjoyed talking to him.

“He was pretty keen to sign me, he told me to watch some footage of games and I mentioned to him that I had played No.8 and liked watching Toutai Kefu and Willie Ofahengaue (former Wallabies).

“I definitely thought about going to rugby. There’s the Lions tour and the World Cup coming up. I played rugby union as a kid, so I know the game, but I had told the Bulldogs I wanted to test myself in boxing and I wanted to stick to my word.”

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TPJ has committed to boxing, but was spotted at Broncos training in January in Brisbane, which he put down to merely visiting friends.

“I blame my boxing trainer for this,” said Pangai, who made 96 appearances for the Broncos between 2016 and 2021.

“His daughter wanted to meet Reece Walsh and Payne Haas (Broncos stars), so I said, ‘I will take you training and meet a few of the lads’.

“That’s why all these rumours started happening about me coming back to the Broncos, but it’s not the first time I have gone to watch Broncos training.

“Right now, I am focused on boxing, but I think I can still definitely mix it in the NRL. I’m only 28 and I’m just hitting my peak as a front-rower.

“Ability wise, I can still do something in the NRL, but I’m taking boxing seriously and respecting the sport.

“I’m committed to boxing but I haven’t ruled out playing NRL again. I would have to have a good talk with my wife and my brother, who manages me.”

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Whatever happens, Pangai will certainly not be moving back to Sydney.

“To be honest, I just hated Sydney,” he said. “I didn’t enjoy the city. There’s a reason my parents moved out of Sydney when I was 12. The place sucks. I will never move back.

“My big thing was being in Brisbane. People don’t understand how much I love being back home with my wife’s family and being able to work with my (boxing) trainer in Brisbane.”

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