Broncos botched Pangai sacking
The Brisbane Broncos' reasons for threatening to sack Tevita Pangai Jr were so flimsy that the Tongan Test star could have hired Dennis Denuto to plead his case to the board.
That's no slight against Pangai's legal team that helped save his career at Red Hill, but it is indicative of what was a botched "sacking" from the beginning.
As Denuto eloquently put it in cult Australian movie The Castle, "the vibe" of Pangai's proposed dismissal from the Broncos was never right and it was justified when the Broncos gave him another 12 months to prove himself.
Pangai couldn't argue against the fact that he knowingly breached the NRL's COVID "bubble" protocols on numerous occasions.
Becoming frustrated with the restrictions, Pangai wined and dined with rugby star Quade Cooper, who did nothing illegal, and was caught out.
In the first show cause notice issued to Pangai, which was amateurish at best, CEO Paul White claimed he "failed to comply with a lawful direction" to attend a team barbecue.
Lawful direction and team barbecue should never appear in the same sentence.
Pangai was then spotted at the opening of a Brisbane barbershop with links to a bikie gang and made a phone call to Roosters chairman Nick Politis in which he allegedly criticised the Broncos.
Who hasn't bagged the Broncos over the past three months? Plenty on the club's payroll could be accused of doing similar.
While there may be more to the story, Pangai's indiscretions were hardly the crime of the century.
In fact, they weren't crimes at all and the Broncos felt compelled to issue him with a second notice, this time compiled by a lawyer, to ramp up their bid to punt him.
When Pangai signed his $650,000-a-season contract last year coronavirus wasn't even a thing, let alone the NRL's "bubble" and associated restrictions placed on players.
Suggestions Pangai's actions threatened to bring down the entire NRL competition were far-fetched considering the remote possibility of contracting COVID-19 in Queensland at the time of his breaches.
The Broncos' push to sack Pangai came down to pure frustration - and understandably so.
With the team plummeting to 15th spot on the ladder and underperforming players brazenly flouting COVID rules, club powerbrokers had had enough of what was going on at Red Hill and wanted to set an example.
Unfortunately for Brisbane, that's not enough to sack someone when their alleged misdemeanours are minor in the scheme of life.
In February, before a ball had been kicked and the 2020 season was full of optimism for Brisbane, forward Joe Ofahengaue lost his licence for three months after being caught by police in control of a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit.
In 2017, Ofahengaue faced court after becoming embroiled in a casino cheating scandal and in 2016 he was caught driving with a suspended licence.
Despite his woeful behaviour record - which has seen him face court at least three times - Ofahengaue was suspended for only two games, missing the opening two rounds of the 2020 season.
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He was not fined by the NRL or Broncos, nor threatened with being sacked.
Like many Broncos players, Ofahengaue's form has been terrible this year and he will not play against Penrith on Thursday night after entering an early guilty plea to a charge of intentionally kneeing a Roosters player last week.
After being stood down for the remainder of the 2020 season on no pay, Pangai's breaches have cost him about $100,000 and a seven-game suspension.
Coronavirus has changed the world but even Denuto could have argued that the vibe was never right on this one.
Originally published as How the Broncos botched Pangai sacking