Rugby League

Pangai looks set to exit as Rhys Kennedy looks to ignite Raiders career

This season looks set to be Tevita Pangai's last at Canberra, but Rhys Kennedy wants to use it to kickstart his Raiders career and capitalise on the club's front row shortage. 

Pangai's manager Sam Ayoub and the Broncos declined to elaborate when contacted about reports he had agreed to terms with Brisbane for 2017, but there hasn't been a denial forthcoming from either party. 

Canberra Raiders prop Rhys Kennedy trains with Group 16 youngsters.
Canberra Raiders prop Rhys Kennedy trains with Group 16 youngsters.  Photo: Elesa Kurtz

The 19-year-old Junior Kangaroo's expected departure won't improve the already tense relationship Canberra has with Brisbane after the Broncos won the battle for Anthony Milford's services last year. 

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart gave an indication Pangai faces a battle to make his first grade debut this year after nominating fellow youngsters Luke Bateman, Mitch Barnett and Rhys Kennedy as leading candidates to fill the club's front rower shortage.

Canberra Raiders youngster Tevita Pangai looks set to join Brisbane.
Canberra Raiders youngster Tevita Pangai looks set to join Brisbane.  Photo: Jay Cronan

The Raiders are understood to be the frontrunners at this stage to win the services of Parramatta prop Junior Paulo for next year, although acquiring him for this season has been all but ruled out. 

Young Newcastle front rower Joe Tapine is also firmly on Canberra's radar from 2017 onward, but the Knights are desperate to re-sign the former Junior Kiwi and have tabled a three-year deal.

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Bateman and Kennedy got a taste of first grade last year and Kennedy is hoping he can follow suit after the departures of experienced props David Shillington (Gold Coast), Dane Tilse (Hull KR) and Mark Nicholls (Melbourne). 

Pangai was named in the under-20s team of the year last season, and also took out the Raiders under-20 players' player award. 

The Raiders trained with Group 16, under-18 high performance camp players on Friday. 

Kennedy and his brother Jarrad, who has played 49 first grade games for Canberra, hail from Tuross Head. 

Rhys, 21, joined Canberra from Melbourne last year and has targeted getting a taste of first grade as his goal this season. 

"He [Stuart] doesn't give you false hope or anything, but obviously we're short in the front row area, I can see that myself, I have to play good footy at Mounties and if I get an opportunity to make the most of it," he said. 

"They [Bateman and Barnett] have both had a taste of NRL so for them it's a bit different."

Stuart has forecast he could shift players in different roles during games this year due to the reduced interchange, which aids the selection hopes of Jarrad Kennedy. 

The eldest Kennedy brother can play 80 minutes and although he is primarily a back rower, spent time in the middle last year and can also fill in at centre. 

"I hope it [reduced interchange] helps me, the game has been heading in that direction the last few years so I don't think it will be too big a step," he said. "It will hurt the bigger boys more, but they'll learn to adapt to that. 

"I think that's the main thing keeping me in the mix, my versatility. It's healthy competition, our back row is really good at the moment and if anything it's pushing everyone to train that bit harder."