So full disclosure, I’m only writing about Tevita Pangai Junior (TPJ) (FRF/2RF, $495,000) because we had a Twitter poll, and he won. Not because I don’t like TPJ. Far from it. He’s my unabashed man-crush and I’ve been waiting to pick him in my SuperCoach team since the first time I saw him play (which I eventually did from Round 1 last year). It’s more a case of, “why wouldn’t you?” and he’s already in around 47% of teams. However, that’s about 53% of you who are clueless, then!
2018: Games played: 21, MPG: 50.3, PPM: 1.11, Average: 52.9
2017: Games played: 17, MPG: 26.3, PPM: 1.42, Average: 38.1
(N.B. 2018 featured multiple games with stints on the edge – usually resulting in a lower PPM, whereas 2017’s games were all in the middle)
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TPJ is a beast of a human. As a comparison, Jason Taumalolo is 191 cm tall and 117 kg. TPJ is 190 cm tall and 113 kg (but three years younger!). TPJ has the physical ability and talent to be spoken of in the same category as the premium forwards in the game like Taumalolo – he just needs to stay healthy.
He takes big, powerful runs like Taumalolo. He busts tackles like Taumalolo. He carries opposition defenders like Taumalolo. He’s, at this stage, not as sturdy and dependable as Taumalolo, but what he does have over Lolo is his skill – TPJ has one heck of an offload and also possesses skill and awareness that is far above plenty of forwards in the NRL, let alone a forward of his age.
He studies the game as hard as anybody, and you can see the fruit of that study starting to show in his on-field performances. TPJ is also needed by the Broncos to be a leader of that young pack, and as the second most experienced of the ‘young brigade’ but arguably the most influential, he will be important.
Spending the early part of last season playing lower minutes before building to bigger minutes in the middle of the park (whether at prop or lock, it doesn’t matter for TPJ), he was given an opportunity to demonstrate his impressive work rate, as he showed his willingness to do the grunt work. He was also given opportunities on the edge where his attacking prowess shone through. This had the dual benefit of giving him more time on the ground, whether through covering for injuries in the middle or edge, or starting and playing the full game on the edge, or simply rotating through both positions throughout the game. Unfortunately, this didn’t always translate into great points, as TPJ was quite fragile in terms of injury and was wrapped in cotton wool by Bennett. More TPJ on the field is a win for everyone, and especially if we get to see him involved in more of the attack given Seibold’s track record so far.
What may actually benefit TPJ in 2019 is having a steady, dependable role in the middle (as basically confirmed by Anthony Seibold) where, as the starter, I’m expecting him to play – at the very least – 50 MPG but more likely than not, closer to 60 or even 65 MPG (depends on his health/fitness) given the Broncos’ losing McGuire (65+ MPG), Sims (40 MPG) and Thaiday (40 MPG). That’s all TPJ needs, and at the very, very bare FRF position, I expect him to be a good shot at being a top three FRF this season, competing with the likes of Fifita and Taupau.
The dual position status is the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae that is TPJ in 2019.
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