Rugby World Cup: Fanzones deliver family-fun

By Chloe Johnson, John Weekes, Jeremy Olds, Nicole Pryor

Suburban fanzones were virtually empty for yesterday's games. But those who went had a great time.

Their team may have lost but Ireland fans had a great time at Albany. Photo / Michelle Hyslop
Their team may have lost but Ireland fans had a great time at Albany. Photo / Michelle Hyslop

Party Central opened up Party Suburban last night, and the fans stayed away in droves.

But those who went to the three fan zones across Auckland raved about the child-friendly family fun of watching a Rugby World Cup match on a Saturday afternoon.

Venues in Albany, Henderson and Mangere were well under capacity.

Entertainment eased the fans into the Ireland versus Wales match. Adults watched the big screens while children played rugby, or bounced on inflatable castles.

The mood was echoed across the nation. Towns hosted civic parties for groups as small as 30 people, opening halls and cinemas for big-screen showings of the evening's games.

The gala atmosphere will be repeated this evening with two of the biggest Rugby World Cup clashes yet. Australia is playing South Africa in Wellington at 6pm and the All Blacks take on Argentina at Eden Park at 8.30pm.

West Auckland's "Outrageously West" fan zone attracted an estimated 1300 fans watching from tables scattered across the carpeted Trusts stadium floor. The stands remained empty.

John Darroch, 41, his wife Diane Iraia, 47, son Fraser Darroch, 11, enjoyed a $10 pizza as they watched the match. "We decided to come down and watch the match with other Westies. It's absolutely brilliant," John Darroch said.

Entertainment in the form of Dave Dobbyn was "bloody amazing", according to Mike Simpkins, 49, who brought his five children to the game.

He said the venue wasn't advertised enough and "needs a burst" of the rugby fever around the rest of Auckland.

"No one is here to enjoy it. You'd expect there to be a lot more people."

To the north, about 4600 people gathered at the fenced-off grass-covered fanzone on a bank overlooking the Albany Park lake. They spoke with enthusiasm at the efforts made to include families in the Cup celebrations.

Birkenhead's Jenny Law 34, went with Donavan Ryan and their daughters Alice, 5 and Emma Ryan, 8. "It was awesome, it was fenced off, so safe for the kids. There were heaps of friends for the kids... they were all playing rugby."

She said she was surprised more people did not come.

Gulf Harbour's Suzie Oliver, 37, said queues for beer were long and people were only able to buy two each visit. Parking nearby made driving easy.

Parents generally disapproved of the 4.30pm entertainment The Adults, which they said was too grungy for an audience filled with children.

Dublin's Grace Melvin, 36, said: "The band wasn't the best. It could have been more poppy, more disco and then the kids would have loved it." Her partner Paul Huddard, 39, from Browns Bay, described it as "semi-grungy, depressing".

At Mangere Town Centre, the alcohol-free fan zone was packed with 7200 turning up throughout the day. Police reported four arrests.

Tiriti Harrison and Frances Mahuia, who visited with their 6-month-old son Hariona, said the fan zone had a great atmosphere for families.

Tevita Manifela supported the alcohol ban and would recommend the Mangere fan zone to his friends. "I was there during the World Cup opening day there were too many drunk people. I can't let my son go running around in front of those drunk people."

Anastasia Purea said the Mangere fan zone had drawn people from Hamilton and Manukau. "They should make all the fanzones have no alcohol," she said.

Nurse Debbie Fanning, 44, watched the Ireland versus Wales game at The Cloud in downtown Auckland. She said she wanted to see more of a party atmosphere in the streets. "When you are in the queue at Disneyland you don't feel like you are in a queue. We could have done better."

- Herald on Sunday

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