News

'Everyone keeps saying I'm brave but I don't have a choice'

FAMILY MAN: Wilson 'Junior' Togia shares a special moment with his six children and (inset ) celebrates the grand final win with Brothers in 2008.
FAMILY MAN: Wilson 'Junior' Togia shares a special moment with his six children and (inset ) celebrates the grand final win with Brothers in 2008.

ON and off the football field, Wilson "Junior" Togia has left a lasting impression on everyone around him.

A premiership winning player and coach, Junior approached life like he would a game of rugby league.

It was never about the scoreline, but the flair and charisma that got you there.

"That's how I coached," Junior said. "I would tell the boys it was not about scoring the try.

"It was how you did it and the celebration afterwards."

In July last year, the 44-year-old father of six began an unexpected journey when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Over the coming months the gradual loss of movement would strip away decades of clean living and a dedication to fitness.

Completely incurable, the disease slowly attacked Junior's nerve cells, eventually confining him to a wheelchair and severely limiting his movement.

"Everyone keeps saying I'm really brave but I don't have a choice," he said.

"When I was first diagnosed I went overboard with pranks on my family.

"Then I had a heart attack and they had to revive me. That's when I realised how serious it was."

First came the weight loss. Then the loss of motor control and fatigue which targeted his leg muscles, hands and later on, slurring his speech.

What was most devastating for Junior was the effect the disease would have on his ability to speak.

"Even as a child I was always known for my gift of the gab," he said.

"Now I have to transition to the gift of the text and the Facebook.

"That's the only place where I am able to express myself."

Wilson 'Junior' Togia celebrates the 2008 grand final win with Brothers Ipswich.
Wilson 'Junior' Togia celebrates the 2008 grand final win with Brothers Ipswich.

 

A member of the Ipswich Jets in the late '90s , the effect Junior had on rugby league in Ipswich can still be seen today.

Born in New Zealand, Junior is credited with being one of the first Polynesian players to represent Brothers Ipswich.

Breaking the divide between his hometown of Goodna and the "city club", a whole generation of players from different backgrounds would follow his lead.

"My family were the first to come over to Ipswich," Junior said.

"I would have lived in Ipswich central but all my relatives were in Goodna.

"When I was a junior I chose to play here instead with all my friends. After I did, heaps of players followed me over.

"I had a really positive experience over that time."

That decision began a life-long love for Brothers and the Ipswich community at large.

After playing for the Ipswich Jets in the late '90s, Junior would return to the blue and white jersey to coach the Reserve Grade side to a premiership in 2010.

"I've brought my son and five nephews to Brothers," he said. "To tell you the effect the club had on me, I only have one son but I took him to St Edmund's.

"The majority of boys here come from there and I want my son to be like them.

"He's as tall as me now, and I have no more shoes because he's taken all of them."

This weekend, people from across Ipswich will have a chance to return the favour.

Organised by close friend Hayley Picker, more than 100 people will attend the Walk for Wilson to help raise funds for Junior's palliative care and his family.

"I'm really grateful for everything they have done," he said. "It's going to be a huge reunion. I've got people from high school and a friend from Melbourne coming up."

More than 2000 Australians currently suffer from MND, and it is estimated that a further 14 members of their friends and family will live with the effects of the diagnosis.

A larger-than-life character who worked as a real estate agent at Ray White Bundamba, and a regular face in the Infinity Martial Arts gym, that number will be much higher for Junior.

"I'm just hoping to raise awareness for MND. I'm really grateful that (the fundraising) is helping my family more than it's helping me."

Topics:  brothers ipswich editors picks infinity martial arts motor neurone disease ray white bundamba wilson togia


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

3 jailed, prison drug business run with smuggled phone

"Vile and insidious drug" leads to syndicate jail terms.

Nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan heads into Brisbane

On top of being a mobile military airport, the USS Ronald Reagan is its own floating city, with at least 5000 sailors on board at any time.

The Nimitz class airline carrier towers 20 storeys above waterline

Elite school brings in sleep expert

The survey found seniors were the most sleep-deprived.

Survey of students find most sleep deprived because of study, tech

Local Partners

'It's crap': Carpark chaos at Bremer High

A LACK of parking at Bremer State High School is causing frustration for parents, some of whom have been slapped with hundreds of dollars in fines.

Working class? Man, Gympie's got the show for you

Jimmy Barnes

Aussie rock icons coming to Gympie for 150th celebrations.

Tables turn as rescue crew takes on gruelling mountain

EPIC CHALLENGE: Hundreds of runners will tackle the 4.2km run from the heart of Pomona to the top of Mt Cooroora and back on Sunday.

They are usually the people coming to the rescue of adventurers

VIDEO: Girls can feel safe at Splendour

Punters at Splendour in the Grass 2016 at Byron Bay.

High visibility police will be among the crowd at all times

Beauty blogger’s horribly racist product review

A POPULAR beauty blogger and model has come under fire for using a racist slur in a recent post.

Outrage as Ninja Warrior cuts Australia's fittest man

Adelaide’s James Newbury was mysteriously cut from the Ninja Warrior broadcast.

Australia's fittest man wasn’t good enough for Ninja Warrior.

Maggie's whirlwind trip around Japan

Maggie Beer pictured in a scene from her TV special Maggie in Japan.

Cooking icon serves up the best of Japanese cuisine in new TV show.

Exploring our complex relationship with the Southern Cross

Warwick Thornton in a scene from his documentary film We Don't Need A Map.

Filmmaker Warwick Thornton explores national identity, nationalism.

Ben will be cooking with Oma

Masterchef 2017 contestant Ben Ungermann.

MASTERCHEF'S last man standing will draw on his Dutch heritage.

Prince Charles and Camilla heading for Qld

Prince Charles and Camilla

It promises to be a holiday fit for a King

Eddie McGuire to come back as Footy Show co-host

Eddie McGuire at the Million Dollar Lunch annual fundraiser for the Children's Cancer Foundation in Melbourne, Friday, Aug. 6, 2015. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy) NO ARCHIVING

Footy Show axes Craig Hutchison, Sam Newman survives

Mum buys $900,000 apartment for her 8-year-old son

Tania Katsanis beat another couple of homeowners to secure the winning bid.

The apartment was a 'bargain' as the property market bottoms out

Townhouses planned for Nicklin Way site

CBRE's Brendan Robins and Rem Rafter on site at Wurtulla.

Prime 1.5ha Sunshine Coast property set for town homes development

Owner tells of ghostly goings on at old Mackay pub

GHOST STORIES: Several people have died at the Mirani Hotel

Owner says pub is 'definitely haunted'

Locky eyes next 'series' win

WINNING COMBINATION: Rugby league great Darren Lockyer is to launch his collection of house designs with Ausmar on Saturday at Caloundra.

NRL legend Darren Lockyer in Sunshine Coast partnership

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!