George Peponis (born Giorgos Peponis Greek: Γιώργος Πεπόνης; on 3 September 1953) is a Greek Australian former professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1970s and 1980s. An Australia national and New South Wales state representative hooker, he played in the NSWRFL Premiership for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, with whom he won the 1980 Grand Final. He also captained the Bulldogs and New South Wales, and played in eight Test matches for Australia between 1978 and 1980, captaining the side on five consecutive occasions between 1979 and 1980.
Professional playing career
Peponis started the 1974 season in reserve grade and that year debuted in first grade against South Sydney when Barry Phillis was injured. He stayed in first grade for that year’s finals series including Canterbury’s Grand Final 1974 loss to the Eastern Suburbs.
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.
Peponis made his state debut for the New South Wales Blues in 1976 and would go on to play seven games for his state up till 1980.
In 1978, Peponis was appointed Canterbury’s first-grade captain and played in the Preliminary Semi-Final against the Parramatta Eels. He would go on to captain 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 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-nil drubbing to the locals. He led Canterbury to the 1979 Grand Final loss against St George.
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. Peponis was captain of Canterbury in their 18-4 1980 premiership victory over Eastern Suburbs.
Persistent neck injuries hampered the remainder of Peponis’ career and he retired midway through the 1982 season.