Young fans enjoy chat with Chiefs

By Genevieve Helliwell

Kristin Loader reckons she's Sonny Bill Williams' biggest fan.

She collects photos of him, cuts out newspaper clippings that name him and even records television sports programmes in case he's mentioned.

Last night, she met her idol in the flesh at the Waipuna Hospice Chat with the Chiefs fundraising event.

"I'm so excited. I've got butterflies and I'm shaking," the 12-year-old said after she had a picture with Chiefs players Sonny Bill Williams and Tanerau Latimer.

"It was like I was having a heart attack. I am the biggest fan. I love Sonny Bill."

Kristin attended the Waipuna Hospice fundraising evening last night with her father, Craig Loader, her sister, Casey, 9, and best friends Rebekah McCafferty and Lauren Curtis.

They were part of the group of about 400 people who attended.

Waipuna Hospice fundraising manager Trish Rae said many guests were Western Bay locals but some had travelled from Rotorua, Hamilton, Te Kuiti and Whitianga for the chance to meet Williams, Latimer, Richard Kahui, Aaron Cruden and coach Wayne Smith.

The evening began with an autograph session in the foyer of Holy Trinity Church.

After about an hour of signing caps, rugby jerseys, flags and rugby balls, the players were welcomed into the church with a powerful haka from Tauranga Boys' College kapa haka group.

For the next hour, the Chiefs were part of a discussion panel, led by former All Blacks winger and media commentator Stu Wilson.

An auction followed, which raised more than $5000 for the hospice.

The final part of the evening was a question and answer session.

Mrs Rae said the main prize - a limousine ride to Hamilton and eight tickets to the Chiefs versus Crusaders in July - was auctioned off for about $2500.

She was unsure of the total amount raised because a number of tickets had been sold at the door.

After the event, Williams told the Bay of Plenty Times he had enjoyed his time in Tauranga.

"It was really cool. People asked some really choice questions and it's always good to be here.

"It's rewarding being involved in something like this and the support from everyone here tonight has been really great."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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