Brendon Pongia is a high-profile figure in New Zealand basketball who played 14 seasons in the NBL and won international honours.
He played for several clubs and was a member of the NBL, winning Waikato Titans team in 2002. Pongia also played for the Hawke's Bay Hawkes, the North Harbour Vikings, the Wellington Saints and Southland Flyers during his career. He was also a member of the New Zealand Tall Blacks.
Pongia said he was rapt to take on the role of ambassador because there were not many opportunities to give something back to the game and while he had been able to remain supportive of the sport, his work commitments meant he couldn't do as much as he would have liked.
As a 16-year-old in 1986, Pongia began training with NBL club Hamilton. A stalwart of the National Basketball League through the 1990s, Pongia earned greatest recognition in 2001 as a member of the Tall Black squad that defeated Australia to qualify for the 2002 FIBA World Championship. He was front and centre in the pre-match build-ups as leader of the haka. He finally captured an NBL title with the Waikato Titans in 2002. Pongia attended the world tournament in Indianapolis as a spectator and enjoyed a high profile in TV coverage, leading the supporters' haka. He was subsequently offered a presenters' role with TVNZ and later Sky TV in 2003.
In 2004 and 2005, Pongia returned to the National League with the Wellington Saints in 2006. He played three seasons with the Saints, before departing the NBL following the 2008 season. In July 2009, he signed with the Southland Flyers for the National Provincial Championships where he captained the team to win the Open Men's championship.
But Golden Oldies has provided him with a perfect vehicle and the connection with Cure Kids was also something he supported.
"To me basketball is a game I love. It has opened up a lot of doors for me and really provided a platform for my life and I owe the game of basketball greatly so by being an ambassador and promoting what will be an amazing Golden Oldies tournament I am able to show some respect and give back to the game," he said.
Pongia thinks the Golden Oldies Festival will be good both for basketball and for the city.
"It will be that much further down the line in terms of its infrastructure but when you look at Christchurch and the history of basketball here there is plenty of it.
"There have been a lot of great basketballers to come out of the city, John Hill from the well-known local family, John 'Dutchie' Rademakers, Glen Denham…who knows they may come out of retirement and play if their knees are still holding up.
"We used to say that what happened between the lines, stayed between the lines but at least with Golden Oldies it is not so competitive and is more about taking part and then having a beer or two after, and that is great.
"Some of those older guys may still have the competitive instinct, because you never lose it, but being older and wiser they don't have to be so fast around the court and can still show off their skills.
"Christchurch is a great place to have the event and it will be good for the region and it will be exciting," he said.
Pongia is already anticipating his ambassadorship will not be confined to the sidelines.
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