Trent Barrett wants Tevita Pangai to embrace and channel his aggressive nature in the right way as the firebrand forward prepares to make his Canterbury debut against former club Brisbane on Sunday.
Pangai endured an acrimonious split with the Broncos after the club informed him at the end of last year he wasn’t in their plans despite being signed on a lengthy and expensive contract.
The forward opted for a loan spell with Penrith en route to their NRL premiership before linking with Canterbury for 2022.
Pangai missed the chance to make his Bulldogs debut in their season-opening win against North Queensland last week due to a hamstring complaint.
But Barrett is hoping the 26-year-old will be free to face the Broncos as Canterbury search for back-to-back wins to start the season for the first time since 2016.
“We’re expecting Tevita to be OK,” Barrett said. “It’s certainly not about Tevita, we need the whole team to play well.
“Tevita has had his mind taken off who we are playing because of the focus of getting himself right for the game.
“It’s certainly not a personal thing for any of our players, we just need to get out there and perform well.”
The key for Pangai will be the ability to keep a calm head in what promises to be an emotional occasion at Accor Stadium.
Part of Brisbane’s decision to let the forward walk was due to his on-field discipline which led to him missing large swathes of matches towards the end of his time at Red Hill.
Despite vowing to make changes to his on-field behaviour, Pangai also narrowly missed suspension following the Bulldogs’ trial loss to Cronulla.
He was sinbinned for ripping the jersey of Sharks forward Royce Hunt in a fracas and making contact with the head of winger Sione Katoa.
Barrett, however, said he wanted Pangai to maintain his hostile approach but be aware to not overstep the mark.
“We want him to be aggressive,” Barrett said.
“It’s in his nature and there’s a fine line which he understands.
“He’s looking forward to playing because he has had a bit of a disrupted pre-season but we are confident he’ll get there this week.”