Player Profile- Quentin Pongia

Former Kiwis captain Quentin Pongia has some unfinished business to take care off when he resurrects his National Rugby League (NRL) career with St George-Illawarra tonight.

The veteran prop, who turns 33 next month, thought his NRL career was over when he left the Sydney Roosters at the end of the 2001 season.

He dropped a couple of tiers to Sydney's Metro Cup competition before heading to France where he was part of this season's championship-winning Villeneuve side.

"I didn't want to leave the (NRL) competition, and now I just want to finish on a better note," said Pongia, who has been named on the interchange bench for the away trip to Newcastle.

He may end up starting the match after New South Wales Origin prop Jason Ryles was ruled out with a shoulder injury suffered during the opening interstate encounter in Brisbane last night.

Pongia, who arrived back from France a fortnight ago, was unconcerned about whether he started or came off the bench.

"Brownie (coach Nathan Brown) had faith in me so now I've got to give something back to him. I've still got that hunger there and helping the young kids along can only help the club."

Brown turned to old adversary Pongia when it was clear Ryles and fellow prop Luke Bailey would be required for Origin duty mid-season.

The West Coaster was approached in March and had no hesitation in responding to the call.

"I was quite surprised, Brownie's call came out of left field but I had a word with (former Canberra teammate) Laurie Daley and that made my decision that little bit easier. It feels like a new lease of life."

Pongia was poised to sign a two-year deal with an English club but opted for Sydney after a satisfying nine months in France.

"I had an offer (from England) but I backed out of it and decided to stay here for 2003, there's always that option next year.

"I've still got the drive so why not give it (NRL) another go?"

Pongia played reserve grade for the Dragons last week and came through unscathed although "the footy is obviously more intense here than France".

Although he was familiar with some of the Dragons players like second rower Lance Thompson and wing Nathan Blacklock, who also makes his NRL comeback tomorrow, Pongia admitted he didn't know most of his teammates.

"There's a lot of youngsters here but it's been good. I'm still getting used to the moves but it's not that hard in the front row ? it's just taking the boys forward and dominating around the ruck and I've been doing that all my life."

Pongia, who played 35 tests for the Kiwis, is on an incentive-based contract and hinted he may aim to stick around next year.

His fitness has impressed Dragons football manager Neil Lovett, who doubts he will have any trouble making the transition from France.

"I imagine France is a couple of steps backwards but he did OK last week. He went forward with the footy a couple of times and got a couple of good offloads away and I don't think defence has ever been Quentin's problem."

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