Rugby league: Former Warriors prop Quentin Pongia dead aged 48

Former Kiwis international Quentin Pongia has died aged 48.

CEO of New Zealand Rugby League, Greg Peters announced the news on social media on Saturday.

Pongia had been battling cancer since 2018 and underwent major surgery in November to remove a tumour from his bowel.

Pongia was capped 35 times for the Kiwis.
Pongia was capped 35 times for the Kiwis. Photo credit: Photosport

Iconic New Zealand rugby league figure Sir Peter 'Mad Butcher' Leitch has paid tribute to the former Kiwi, saying he will be sorely missed.

"It's sad to see him go, but hes in a better place - he fought a tough battle to the bitter end," he said,

"[He was] an absolute legend of rugby league, he played the game full on all the time, the same with his cancer, he was a wondrful man."

The 35-capped Kiwi also played 18 games for the New Zealand Warriors in 1998 and 137 NRL games in total with stints at the Canberra Raiders, Sydney Roosters and St George Dragons.

Pongia started the 1994 Grand Final for the victorious Raiders who beat the Canterbury Bulldogs 36-12 at the Sydney Football Stadium.

Pongia finished his playing career in 2004 at the Wigan Warriors in the United Kingdom.

Following his retirement from professional rugby league, Pongia spent time with the Raiders as a member of the clubs coaching staff and was most recently working for Manly as part of their coaching staff. 

Raiders coach and former teammate Ricky Stuart said the club was deeply saddened to hear of his passing and remembered him as not only a rugby league star but also as a wonderful man. 

"From my personal relationship, and behalf of the current playing group, i'd like to pass on my sincere condolences to Quentin's family in this tough time," Stuart said.

"Like a number of players who played with him, I have nothing but respect and a wonderful friendship with Quentin and although it saddens me to hear of the news, it comforts me to know he has no pain now. 

"Quentin is the toughest individual I have ever played with and I know how hard he fought to beat this terrible disease. He will be sorely missed right across the rugby league community."