Player Profile: Can TPJ fire in Penrith debut?

With Tevita Pangai Jnr's move to Penrith, we assess how his SuperCoach output may be impacted at his new club.

Decision Time

Tevita Pangai Jnr’s stunning move to premiership heavyweights Penrith with just a handful rounds left in the regular season may have big ramifications on NRL SuperCoach.

Prior to his three game suspension, TPJ was owned by just about every coach ranked in the top 10,000 ranked teams, including 97 of the top 100 ranked overall SuperCoaches at the time.

At the conclusion of Round 19, he was owned by 32% of the top 100 ranked overall SuperCoaches and 23% of the top 1,000 ranked teams.

Available as dual FRF-2RF, with one of the best points per minute outputs in the game, he’s a vital asset that was sold off by most owners.

So how will his move to Penrith impact his SuperCoach scoring, and what role will he play?

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Ultimately only Ivan Cleary knows how he will slot into his new role, but I thought I’d take a little crack at working out how the strike-weapon will be used at the foot of the mountains for interests sake.

With a starting back-row consisting of Origin reps Isaah Yeo and Kurt Capewell, along with Fijian international Viliame Kikau, I don’t see him slotting into a starting back-row spot.

Throw in the mix the fact another Origin rep in Liam Martin enters that rotation off the bench – that’s four players capable of easily punching out 80 minutes – I don’t see TPJ playing back-row for Penrith.

He’ll slot into the middle rotation at his new club. For the majority of this season he’s played on the edge for Brisbane, but he’s extremely versatile in the pack and won’t have any issue moving back to the middle.

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He’s expected to play his first game for the club against the Sydney Roosters in Round 21.

This coincides with James Fisher-Harris returning to Sydney to await the birth of his child.

On return Fisher-Harris has to complete two weeks of isolation before rejoining the NRL bubble.

As such, TPJ should get a decent chunk of time for the two weeks with Fisher-Harris out of action. Although JFH could be back sooner.

Changing clubs is always tough, but for middle forwards the transition is very straight forward.

Fisher-Harris is averaging 53 minutes per game this season, so I can see TPJ slotting into that time immediately in the same role, however there’s obviously a chance Cleary opts to play someone like Spencer Leniu or Matt Eisenhuth in greater time, I’m only speculating.

Against Melbourne we saw Liam Martin start in the front-row and Scott Sorensen at lock in place of Yeo who missed out due to a HIA.

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Provided there’s no injury in the period Fisher-Harris is out, his return would likely see TPJ return to the bench as an impact player in somewhere between 40-50 minutes of game time max.

There’s always the chance that if TPJ does dominate he may start over Moses Leota, but Penrith don’t have any reason to change the formula that’s seen them barely lose at full-strength in the past two years.

SuperCoach wise, TPJ doesn’t need big minutes to score well.

When playing in the middle his points per minute (PPM) is off the charts.

He played three games to start the 2021 season in the middle at prop. His returns were:

Round 1 v Eels: 79 points, 39 minutes, 45 base

Round 2 v Titans: 100 points, 52 minutes, 53 base

Round 3 v Bulldogs: 82 points, 59 minutes, 47 base

*Base = tackles + runs – missed tackles

Those numbers are immense, and while it’s a relatively small sample size, it shows he doesn’t need big minutes to score well.

During his 80 minute games playing on the edge for Brisbane he actually averaged less in base despite playing 30 minutes extra game time.

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I’d dig deeper into previous seasons, but I think it’s largely irrelevant as the quicker game in 2021 due to new rules has changed the nature of SuperCoach scoring, so I think it’d be pretty misleading.

While I’m expecting his 68 minute per game to significantly decrease, I do expect an increase in TPJ’s attacking output. 

He’ll be playing in a dominant pack that will roll forward with ease, and with TPJ going full throttle at a retreating defensive line it will be terrifying to try and stop.

I’m backing it can lead to greater tries, assists, line breaks etc.

Hopefully Cleary gives him a licence to offload which would be vital to his scoring.

So at $529,100 with a breakeven of 81 would I look to be buying should he play his first game for Penrith next week?

Despite all the above suggestion he should score well, the answer for now is no.

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There’s simply too much uncertainty around his role for the time being.

We’re running so low on trades this late in the season that you can’t afford to pay that kind of money for someone that may play 25 minutes off the bench.

However, for those who still own, I’d be holding and hoping he turns into a huge POD for the run home.

Monitor him in coming rounds, then assess his role the first week that Fisher-Harris returns, and if he’s still getting decent time then he could be a POD buy for the final few rounds of the season.

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