Why Dogs barred Pangai from immediate arrival

The Bulldogs opted against snapping up Tevita Pangai Junior immediately so they could start the new pre-season with “a clean slate” and give those already on their roster a chance to “make a statement”, new footy boss Phil Gould has revealed.

Canterbury announced this week that Pangai Junior had committed to a three-year deal beginning in November, giving the talented front-rower a home after he was told by the Broncos he was unwanted.

Nine’s Danny Weidler is reporting that Pangai Junior will head to the Bulldogs via the Panthers, after agreeing to a short-term deal with Penrith for the remainder of this season.

Gould, who’s less than a week into his job as Canterbury’s general manager of football, explained the decision to not immediately sign Pangai Junior on Wide World of Sports’ Six Tackles with Gus podcast.

“We would just like to start with a clean slate come November,” Gould said.

“That’s what we’ve budgeted for.

“At the moment we’re in last position, I really want to have a look at the players we’ve got and one of my first priorities is to give all of these players (a chance).”

The Bulldogs are now based in a hub on the Gold Coast and Gould said he had addressed the playing group in a Zoom call.

“I spoke to them by Zoom last night for the first time in camp up there in Queensland, just a short conversation to say, ‘Hello, I’m here, if there’s anything you need feel free to call’,” Gould said.

“And [I was] virtually saying, ‘Look, I’m wiping the slate clean with all of you, you’ve got a clean slate with me, you’ve got the last period of the competition to still make a statement about yourself, both as an individual and a team, and whether or not you want to be a part of the Bulldogs in the future’.

“And that’s what football is. It’s train hard, play hard, never give up and show your consistent performance.

“I said, ‘Whatever’s happened up until now doesn’t interest me; I just want to see what you can do from this point on’. I want to see if we can get some sort of reaction from players that might on the fringe. I said, ‘Whatever stage your career is in at the moment – doesn’t matter how old you are or how many games you’ve played or where you think you’re posted – tell me why a good finish to the season would benefit you at this stage’.”

In the meantime, Gould has the opportunity to see how Pangai Junior fares in a new environment, as the Tonga international bolsters the Panthers in their pursuit of their first NRL premiership since 2003.

Gould understands Penrith’s thinking behind attaining Pangai Junior on a short-term deal, noting depth and the former Bronco’s enormous potential.

Front-rower James Fisher-Harris will return to Sydney after this weekend’s clash with Brisbane for the both of his child and, despite the Panthers’ request for him to be granted an exemption, the New Zealand international will need to spend two weeks in a Queensland quarantine hotel before rejoining the squad.

In an additional test of Penrith’s depth in the forward pack, NSW State of Origin workhorse Isaah Yeo will need a break before the finals to freshen up, Gould says.

The rugby league guru believes the Panthers’ short-term attainment of Pangai Junior was a smart call.

“It’ll help the Panthers come into the finals pretty well refreshed and if they can pick up a damaging forward like Tevita Pangai Junior it just might be the difference between beating the Melbourne Storm and not beating the Melbourne Storm on grand final day,” Gould said.

“Tevita may arrive at the Bulldogs as a premiership-winner come November, which would be a wonderful experience for him.”

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