Ge­orge recog­nised for a life of loy­alty

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - RICHARD MAYS

‘‘I went to the doc­tor with a sore back and came out with some­thing else.’’

Ge­orge Ponga, a stal­wart of Kia Toa rugby was di­ag­nosed six months ago with ter­mi­nal prostate can­cer. The 55-year-old’s plight was high­lighted in the past week when he was named as the re­cip­i­ent of the Ran­gi­tikei St Count­down Christ­mas Elves cam­paign.

The man who has given a life­time of loy­alty to his club and his fam­ily was nom­i­nated for the $500 gro­cery voucher award by his daugh­ter Mar­garet. Store man­ager Gary Tan­ner says it was an en­try from the hun­dred or so en­tries re­ceived, that made a big im­pres­sion on the man­age­ment team.

‘‘It was an al­most unan­i­mous vote. His loy­alty to his fam­ily and to Kia Toa stood out,’’ Gary says.

Prin­ci­pal bread­win­ner for his fam­ily, Ge­orge has had to give up work while he un­der­goes ra­dio­ther­apy.

‘‘I’ve lost a lot of body mass and my strength,’’ he says.

In the last four months, he has dropped from 102kg to just 75kg.

‘‘The plan is to get through Christ­mas’’, Ge­orge says. ‘‘Ra­dio­ther­apy has made a dif­fer­ence. They’ve been really good at the hos­pi­tal, at the Can­cer So­ci­ety and at the hospice.’’

Ge­orge and wife Ma­rina have been mar­ried for 36 years. They have four chil­dren and five grand­chil­dren. Three of his grand­chil­dren have come back from Aus­tralia in time for Christ­mas.

Grow­ing up in Palmer­ston North, Ge­orge went to Takaro School which was af­fil­i­ated to Kia Toa. The num­ber-8, has been an ac­tive club mem­ber since 1966. He only gave up play­ing prezzie’s grade five years ago.

‘‘I stopped at 50. I thought the guys were get­ting too young for me... but I was just get­ting old.’’

Re­cently he was made a life mem­ber of the club where he has coached colts and se­nior Bs, man­aged the se­nior As, served as a gear stew­ard, and been club cap­tain and vice pres­i­dent.

In his ‘spare’ time, he also con­trib­uted to the main­te­nance of Ma­rina’s Te Hi­iri Marae at Hal­combe.

Gary hopes the Christ­mas Elves recog­ni­tion con­trib­utes some com­fort and so­lace to Ge­orge and his fam­ily in what un­der or­di­nary cir­cum­stances, would be a fes­tive fam­ily time.

PHOTO: DAVID UN­WIN

Vet­eran Kia Toa rugby sup­porter, Ge­orge Ponga with his mokop­una at Count­down Ran­gi­tikei St from left Ma­son (6) and Lorenzo (4)Ti­rau, Sophia Jones (1) and Aria Cootes (11).

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