Our Magpies bring home the Shield

By Roger Moroney

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To a huge cheer Magpies captain Brendon O'Connor was first into the airport terminal - carrying a very special piece of luggage. Photo / Paul Taylor
To a huge cheer Magpies captain Brendon O'Connor was first into the airport terminal - carrying a very special piece of luggage. Photo / Paul Taylor

The words of a little boy proudly wearing his black and white jersey and waving a similar coloured flag summed it up for all at Hawke's Bay Airport on Saturday night after the victorious Magpies touched down.

"We've got the shield back," he cried out as the Ranfurly Shield-bearing Magpies skipper Brendon O'Connor walked toward the terminal, leading his smiling troops.

Word had clearly spread fast that the Magpies were on the 7.45pm flight from Auckland and by 7pm there were an estimated 250 people already taking up spots alongside walkway barriers set up inside the terminal for the players to move through.

By 7.30pm the crowd had swelled to what appeared to be about 500 people - and the landscape within the terminal had clearly turned black and white.

Scores of youngsters, many with painted faces and wearing Magpies shirts, joined the excited throng as the minutes were counted down to the arrival.

Banners and waving flags filled the air and the familiar song/chant of "Come on the Bay" began to spread.

"Bit of deja-vu going on here mate," radio host and official crowd cheerleader Kevin Wagg said. "I seem to remember being here before."

Like many of those who turned out to welcome the shield on Saturday night he had - almost exactly a year ago when the Bay lifted the famous 'Log 'o Wood' from Otago - only to see it fall into the hands of Counties just six days later.

Mr Wagg smiled and said it was if it had all somehow been planned, as the walkway barriers through the terminal had been erected well before the final 27-21 score that gave the shield to the Magpies.

"They were put up for the All Blacks arriving here so it's all worked out very well."

When the players made their way into the terminal the reception of cheers, whistles and applause was probably heard in Pukekohe.

Among the throng was Stuart Nash and nine-year-old son Charlie.

"He was with me at the game when we lost it," Mr Nash said. "He was pretty sad and all he could say then was 'oh well' - but now he's just ecstatic."

For Mr Nash it was a case of 'mission accomplished' when he was able to get a photo of Charlie with a couple of the Magpies.

Former Hawke's Bay player Simon Tremain was also on hand to greet the shield - again.

"I knew all the way we were going to get it back," he said, adding that his confidence was such that he commissioned an add-on to his company's real estate sign at the airport exit.

It now reads 'The shield's found a new home'.

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton welcomed the team and said the result was good not just for Napier but the whole region.

"You can all feel proud because the whole of Hawke's Bay is so proud of you," he told the players.

The players were clearly delighted with their welcome home.

"This is great - this is very special," Israel Dagg told two young lads who leaned forward to shake his hand and go for the inevitable "selfie" shot with their phones.

Like his teammates, 'Izzy" was delighted to spend time posing for pictures, signing autographs or just having a quick chat to as many of the waiting hundreds as he could.

For Therese Rodger of Napier and her three children it was an occasion they would not have missed. "Oh we watched the game alright and we had to come out here."

Her 13-year-old daughter Emma was smiling - "I got to hold the shield".

And her little brothers nine-year-old Campbell and five-year-old Fletcher got to meet their special heroes - Israel Dagg and Richard Buckman.

"It's pretty cool to see this," first-five Ihaia West said as another request for a photo was heard. "How many photos have I had taken? - I've lost count but it's so good."

A tired but clearly elated Magpies winger Richard Buckman said the match went "down to the wire" and the players were pretty well spent by the time the final whistle went.

• At 1pm yesterday the Magpies, along with their now historic giant mascot 'Hawkeye', enjoyed a public presentation at the Napier Sound Shell.

About 250 people braved the chilly winds to get a close-up look at the shield and the chance to get autographs from the players. Magpies skipper Brendon O'Connor said it always lifted the team when a big crowd turned up to get in behind them and hoped to see them all again for their first challenge on September 14 against Otago.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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