Jack Dudley was buzzing when he got the chance to meet his idol, Steamers captain Jamie Nutbrown.
The 11-year-old met his hero at the Bay of Plenty Steamers captain's run at Tauranga Intermediate School yesterday.
With the Year 7 student decked out in his Steamers jersey, "Buzzy Bunny" wings and his face painted blue and gold, there was no doubt which team he'll be backing when the Steamers take to the field against Ranfurly Shield holders Taranaki at Baypark Stadium at 2.35pm today.
The whole school, including teachers, was decked out in blue and gold for Nutbrown's captain's training run as the Steamers kicked off their 2012 ITM Cup campaign.
Jack, a Greerton Marist Black under-12s hooker, said his idol was Nutbrown.
"I think the captain is a really awesome player and I want to be just like him and play for the Steamers when I grow up. If I can't be a Steamers, I want to be an All Black," he said.
Jack's Greerton Marist teammate Kael Johnson, 11, said he was rapt to be able to watch the Steamers train and couldn't wait to attend the game.
When Kael was asked who he most admired in the Steamers squad, surprisingly top of the list for the junior right-side prop was not one of the players. "I quite look up to the coach, Kevin Schuler [former All Black], because he's an awesome player. I want to be a forwards coach one day."
After the training session Nutbrown signed autographs for some of the children and spoke to the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend about the team's visit to the school.
"It's really good for us to see how much support there is for the team across our community. It was a really nice surprise to see all the kids and the teachers dressed up all wearing blue and gold, and good for us as representative players to give out there amongst our supporters."
Nutbrown said he and the whole team were "fizzing" and they couldn't wait to get out on the field.
"Taranaki are a really strong team, including having some Super 15 players and they have a pretty strong forward pack and pretty fast players, so we're definitely not taking them lightly. But we are planning to hit them with everything we've got," he said.
Bay of Plenty Rugby Union chief executive Mike Rogers said he attended the inaugural captain's run at Tauranga Intermediate and a similar one held at Mount Primary yesterday morning.
"It was just awesome to see the students had all got dressed up in blue and gold and it was great too for the players to see how much support there is in the community. Everyone was just buzzing."
Mr Rogers said, given this was the first game of the season, it was difficult to talk about ticket sales, but he anticipated up to 10,000 people would attend - although there was seating for 20,000. "Of course, we would love to fill the stadium to capacity," he said.
Tickets are $20 each for adults and $5 for children under 15 and available at the Baypark Stadium main gates from 9am.