George recognised for a life of loyalty
‘‘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.
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).