Here comes a man in black to Whangarei

By Imran Ali

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Retired All Black Keven Mealamu addresses students at Morningside School. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Retired All Black Keven Mealamu addresses students at Morningside School. Photo / Michael Cunningham

He's an All Black legend, but apparently he played the Warriors in the World Cup final last year.

Morningside School students got up close with Keven Mealamu yesterday, who began his surprise visit by asking the kids if they knew what happened last year when the All Blacks brought home a small gold-plated cup.

The All Blacks, of course, beat Australia in the World Cup final. Not everyone reckoned that. "The Warriors" was one response from the Morningside kids.

Mealamu, in town as a guest of the ASB, took it in his stride with good humour."You kicked a ball," a girl said.

Another student suggested: "You scored the last try."

When Mealamu told the assembly the All Blacks played in front of 80,000 people at Twickenham during the World Cup final, the student exclaimed "holy moly".

Mealamu signed autographs for the students before they went back to their classrooms, and although the World Cup trophy wasn't available, he was able to show them the Bledisloe Cup.

Year 6 student Samson Ra had never heard about Mealamu but reckoned he was "good" after the assembly.

Ra plays halfback in the Marist Brothers junior club competition and wants to either be a mixed martial arts' fighter or a rugby player.

Morningside School acting principal Clare Newman said Mealamu's visit was amazing.

"We have over 50 per cent Maori students and a lot of our kids are affiliated with sports and it's amazing to have them up close and personal with Keven," she said.

Mealamu, who also illustrates children's books, said he had enjoyed the transition from a pro-rugby career to sharing his knowledge of the game at grassroots' level in schools and clubs. ASB regional manager Northland, Glen Hardham, said the bank's partnership with the All Blacks was an opportunity to promote the game, and give children the chance to learn what it takes to don the black jersey. Two-time World Cup winner Mealamu won 132 caps for the All Blacks in a 13-year career.

- Northern Advocate

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