Hundreds of people packed into Hawke's Bay Airport and thousands lined the streets of Napier yesterday to welcome home the Magpies with the coveted Ranfurly Shield in tow.
The parade held yesterday brought thousands of people onto the streets of Napier, lining Tennyson, Hastings, Emerson, Dalton, and Vautier streets as the team carried by a fleet of Hawke's Bay Toyota vehicles brought the shield home.
The four-year-old grandson of legendary All Black Kelvin Tremain - who shares his grandfather's initials - was in attendance at Hawke's Bay Airport, as was former Magpie and All Black Ian MacRae who played in the Shield-winning 6-0 game back on September 24, 1966, and he returned from Dunedin with the team.
Giant imported lock Johan Schoonbee wasn't in the squad that won the Ranfurly Shield, but as a giant among giants the 2-metres-tall South African was the perfect right-hand man when the trophy finally reached what some may say is its spiritual home at McLean Park in Napier yesterday.
Schoonbee, from Cape Town and a South Africa junior Rugby World Cup team member in 2010, could think of nothing to match the enormity of the occasion.
"I didn't quite realise how important it was in New Zealand until we came around the corner (from Hastings St to Emerson St) and the players saw all the people," he said.
His captain told him: "Hold on to it, then everyone can take pictures."
Everyone just wants to touch it."
For the nostalgic, the Napier parade was almost eerie as the parade entered Emerson St, crowds in front of a closed bank, the old Farmers complex under reconstruction, and an empty coffee shop.
The Shield hadn't been in Hawke's Bay hands since 1960s defence No 22, although it had been back in Napier twice, in 1988 and 1992, as Auckland twice allowed Hawke's Bay to challenge at home on McLean Park.
Hastings District Council's organised parade for the Magpies rugby team to show off the shield to the community starts about 10.30am today. It will leave the Hibernian Club carpark, 402 Eastbourne Street, led by police, Hastings Pipe Band and media vehicle.
Meanwhile, organisers are expecting McLean Park to be full come game day this weekend.
Ticket sales for Hawke's Bay's match against Counties-Manukau this Saturday have soared as fans flock to watch the first shield defence.