ABs spread cheer before whistle blows

By Doug Laing -
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HE DA MAN: Five-year-old David Richardson, of Clive, up close and personal with All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina at Hawke's Bay Airport yesterday. PHOTO/Duncan Brown
HE DA MAN: Five-year-old David Richardson, of Clive, up close and personal with All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina at Hawke's Bay Airport yesterday. PHOTO/Duncan Brown

It was a game of two halves and a few minutes of extra time as six All Blacks flew into Napier yesterday for a flag-waving visit which lasted barely as long as the average visit to Eden Park or the Cake Tin on match night.

Charlie Faumuina, George Moala, Jerome Kaino, Malakai Fekitoa, Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Patrick Tuipulotu flew in from Auckland at 9am and were off again at 1.35pm, heading, via Auckland, to rejoin the players in camp in Hamilton, to start preparing for the Rugby Championship match against Argentina on Saturday night.

The first half of the trip paid homage to grassroots rugby at Petane Domain, just north of the airport, where they met members of the Eskview rugby team which won the year's Hawke's Bay Division 2 title, after almost folding in 2015.

The second half was a visit to youngsters playing Rippa Rugby at Park Island, and extra time was a few minutes on the way back to the airport when they stopped at Westshore fish and chip shop On The Quay.

Proprietors Karl and Tracy Henderson thought someone was having them on when they took the phone order for the All Blacks, but knew it was the real deal when the most recognisable player, Jerome Kaino, ducked as he came through the door to get
the standard Kiwi fare of two fish and a scoop.

The secret was never likely to be kept from the team nutritionist - photos of the stop, including the opportunist moments of passersby were soon adorning Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

Micky Robinson was also at the airport, unaware that any All Blacks would be around while she was seeing off friends.

She took the opportunity to get a photo for one of the family, 5-year-old David Richardson, for whom it was a particularly special moment.

"He's grown up with rugby," she said as the youngster tweaked the beard of prop Faumuina.

She invited the players to her Zeppelin Cafe in Clive next time they're in town.
"We can feed you a good breakfast," she said.

There was no crowd at the airport, but among those waiting for passengers and seeing family off was Napier City Council chief executive Wayne Jack, who is always hopeful that the New Zealand Rugby Union will soon bring the whole team back again, for another test match at McLean Park.

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