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TV star Brendon Pongia: 'Fatherhood has changed me'

The former breakfast TV host has found his dream jobs - on and off the small screen.

For many people, the thought of appearing on live TV is terrifying. But for Brendon Pongia, it’s a case of, “Bring it on!”

The former host of Good Morning is back on telly and he’s delighted that it’s a live show, Maori TV sports programme Play.

“I love live TV,” says Brendon, who co-hosted Good Morning with Sarah Bradley for six years.

“Yes, there are a lot of things that can go wrong, but that is what I love about it. There are a few nerves involved, but that is good because you don’t want to get complacent. I might be a tiny bit nervous right before I go on, but as soon as I walk in that studio, it is game on!”

Play is not quite as demanding as Good Morning was – it’s just one hour a week compared with the 15 hours he appeared on screen each week with the now defunct TVNZ magazine show – but it’s great fun and Brendon still can’t quite believe he gets to spend an hour every week discussing sport on TV.

“It’s the perfect job for me – it couldn’t have been any better if I had sat down and written a wish list,” says the former New Zealand basketball representative.

“I get to talk about sport and that means I have to watch a lot of sport. I always did anyway, but now I can legitimately say to my wife, ‘I’ve got to watch it – it’s for work!’

The popular TV presenter can now be seen on Play, Maori Television, Mondays at 8.30pm.
The popular TV presenter can now be seen on Play, Maori Television, Mondays at 8.30pm.

“We have a good laugh – sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind me that I really do get to do this for a living.”

Brendon (46) says he was sad when he lost his job on Good Morning in 2011 when the programme moved from Wellington to Auckland.

“I loved being able to engage with viewers and I got to do so many things – from dancing around in tights with ballet dancers through to being hypnotised on screen.

“It was a shame that it came to an end, but when I left, I wasn’t too worried about what I was going to do next. I knew something would come up. I believe in fate or karma, or whatever you want to call it. I tend to think, ‘Why worry about something when you don’t have any control about it?’ I’m pretty positive like that and I’m resilient.

“There is a lot of negative stuff in this world and I don’t want to add any more.”

Brendon has been keeping busy since he finished on Good Morning. As well as speaking at conferences and other events, he worked for former Maori Party co-leader Dame Tariana Turia’s Whanau Ora health initiative for two years, which involved helping at-risk communities.

“It was quite a change working for the public sector and being Tariana’s eyes and ears. It was a real eye-opener.”

For the last couple of years, he has worked for the charity Cure Kids and as well as his television work, he is currently their business development manager, helping to raise funds towards vital medical research.

“I absolutely love it,” tells Brendon. “I work with a great team – I come up with these ideas and they make them happen. We recently organised a dinner with Richie McCaw that raised $297,000, which was amazing.”

Brendon believes it is crucial to give back.

“People know me from TV so it opens doors a little quicker. I think if you’ve got that, you should use it. It feels amazing to know that the things you are doing are changing lives.

“Some of the stories I hear about the families Cure Kids help are just heartbreaking. It makes you realise what is important and that there is no point in worrying about the irrelevant stuff in our lives.”

As busy and fulfilling as his professional life is, it takes second place to family, especially now Brendon and his wife Michelle are the proud parents of son Armani (2).

“Family comes first,” he says. “It can be hard getting the balance right but I make sure that weekends are family time. I’m a very structured person and I organise things so that I spend as much time as possible with my family. For example, I get up early to go to the gym early while everyone else is sleeping.

“I love being a father. Having Armani has changed everything. I think being a parent makes you more selfless. You realise that it is not all about you in the end.”

As important as his work is, the devoted dad says family comes first. “Being a parent makes you more selfless,” he says
As important as his work is, the devoted dad says family comes first. “Being a parent makes you more selfless,” he says

Life is very full-on, he remarks, but he has no intention of slowing down.

“Fifty is not that far away and it sounds a bit scary when you say you are going to be 50 in a couple of years. Where has the time gone?

“I’m going to keep trying to do as much as I can. We all have a choice about how we lead our life and I’m going to live it to the fullest. I’ve got so many opportunities to make a difference and I am not going to miss out on any of them.”

Words: Donna Fleming

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