Rugby league legends Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler say they would be “surprised” if the Brisbane Broncos could “legally” sack forward Tevita Pangai Junior after he breached the NRL’s COVID-19 biosecurity protocols.
Pangai today was issued a breach notice by the NRL, stood down indefinitely and fined $30,000 after he was caught up in a police operation at the opening of a barber shop, where members of the Mongols bikie gang were present.
In response to his breach, reports emerged yesterday that Broncos are in the process of tearing up his $650,000-a-season contract.
However, Fittler said Brisbane’s response to tear up the contract was overkill, fearing the club could face a legal challenge if they pursued the termination of Pangai’s contract.
“I don’t think you can sack someone on the basis that they turned up to an opening of a barber,” Fittler told Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and The Eighth.
“Who’s to say that he knew they were Mongol bikies or whatever puts colour to the story.
“Maybe there are other misdemeanours where he’s been given breaches, but I can’t imagine they’d be legally able to sack someone for that.”
Johns added: “It seems very severe if it’s just that case.
“I understand he said he went there for a haircut where they have footage of him giving a signed Broncos jersey.
“If that’s the only incident, and they sack him for that, I’d be really surprised.”
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Yet, having handed Pangai a breach notice, the Broncos have effectively sacked him, giving the player five days to submit reasons why his contract shouldn’t be terminated. Only a compelling case, potentially hinged on legal arguments, is likely to change the outcome.
If the 24-year-old’s time at the Broncos is up, Fittler said he hoped Pangai would use this chapter in his career as a learning experience to better himself in future team environments.
“I think the key to it is, is how is he thinking right now,” Fittler said.
“Is it, is this a rort and I’m being ripped off? Or is it, I need to change. Or just the fact I need to become more club aligned and do as I’m told.
“At some stage, when you’re playing in a team sport and for a club, you need to do what’s best for everyone else.”
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Since the NRL resumed from its COVID-19 enforced break back in May, the Broncos have notched just one victory with the club spiralling to its worst statistical season on record.
Before Pangai made headlines last weekend, the Broncos were already reeling, with coach Anthony Seibold taking time away from the club, and Darius Boyd’s quitting the leadership group.
Johns said it was hard to believe things could get any worse for the Broncos, urging them to totally “change” and “revamp” the club.
“I thought the Broncos had hit rock bottom, but maybe they haven’t,” Johns said.
“You can look at rock bottom, there could be some change coming out of it, they totally need to change and revamp the whole club.
“There needs to be a total change.
“It’s a hard-lined stance if they do sack Tevita, but maybe this is the turning point where it all turns around.”