Dr George Peponis born as Georgios Peponis (Greek: Γεώργιος Πεπόνης, born 1953 in Tripoli, Greece) is a Greek-Australian former rugby league player for the Canterbury Bulldogs, New South Wales and for the Australian national side. He played in eight Tests for the Australia between 1978 and 1980, as captain on five consecutive occasions in 1979 and 1980.
George and his family emigrated to Australia from their native Tripoli, Greece when he was just 18 months old in 1954 like many other Greeks in those days, to get a better life. He attended Canterbury Boys' High School where he played rugby union and was a Canterbury rugby league junior before being graded in 1973 to the under 23s side in which year he played in the Preliminary Final against the Balmain Tigers.
He started the 1974 season in reserve grade and that year debuted in first grade against the South Sydney Rabbitohs when Barry Phillis was injured. He stayed in first grade for that year's finals series including the Bulldogs' Grand Final 1974 loss to the Eastern Suburbs Roosters.
After a 1975 season interrupted by a broken leg injury, for the next five seasons from 1976 he was Canterbury's regular first grade hooker. The Canterbury club maintained a scholarship scheme for its juniors at the time which supported him financially while he conducted his medical studies.
In 1978, George was appointed first grade captain and played in the Preliminary Semi-Final against the Parramatta Eels. He captained Canterbury on 71 occasions between 1978 and 1982. As a hooker he was a consistent winner of possession in those days of contested scrums and was known for his trademark ability to burrow over for tries from the dummy-half position.
He led Canterbury to the 1979 Grand Final loss against St George and the following year was skipper of the Bulldogs in their 18-4 1980 premiership victory over the Roosters. Persistent neck injuries hampered the remainder of Peponis' career and he retired midway through the 1982 season.
He made his state debut for the New South Wales Blues in 1976 and played seven games for his state up till 1980. He made his Test debut for Australia in 1978 in the first Test against New Zealand. He was vying for the Australian hooker position with Max Krilich and Queensland's Johnny Lang and would in his career regularly compete against Krilich for representative honours. He was selected for the 1978 Kangaroo tour on which he played two Tests, four minor tour matches and scored six tries.
In 1979 after the playing retirement of Bob Fulton he took over as state captain of New South Wales and that same year was selected as Kangaroo captain for the domestic Ashes series against Great Britain. Australia's fitness and skill dominance over Great Britain began to show in this series which was a three-nill drubbing to the locals.
After leading Australia to victory in two Tests in the 1980 tour of New Zealand, Peponis attained the career record of captaining Australia on five successive occasions to a clean record of five wins.
A medical practitioner, Peponis remained involved with the game through FootyTAB promotions and being on the NRL Drugs Tribunal. He was elected Chairman of the Bulldogs Football Club following the club's salary cap scandal in 2002 when they were penalised 37 competition points and fined $500,000 for systematically breaching the cap. As of 2007 Peponis is still the Chairman and was in charge when personally difficult decisions were made which saw his former 1980 Grand Final teammates Garry Hughes and Steve Mortimer forced out of their positions with the club.
Peponis was named at hooker in the Berries to Bulldogs 70 Year Team of Champions in 2004. He is a Life Member of the Football Club and in 2007 was inducted into the Bulldogs Ring of Champions.
- Whiticker, Alan (2004) Captaining the Kangaroos, New Holland, Sydney
- Andrews, Malcolm (2006) The ABC of Rugby League Austn Broadcasting Corpn, Sydney
- http://www.bulldogs.com.au/main.php Bulldogs Player Histories (Official Site)
- When a Greek captained the Kangaroos
|Australian national rugby league captain