By PETER JESSUP
There was dressing-shed banter, some colourful language, impromptu haircuts and a load of humour as the Prime Minister held a reception for the Kiwi league team in the banquet hall in the Beehive yesterday.
Helen Clark said she had been to many "stuffy" events in the venue, as she exhorted the league crowd to enjoy themselves ahead of tonight's test against Australia.
This is the fifteenth Kiwi team to embark on a tour of England and yesterday's was the first official farewell from a PM in Parliament.
Helen Clark's invitationi was all Mad Butcher Peter Leitch needed to let off a few bloody oaths and next thing former Kiwi Warren Collicoat and game administrator Mike Tolich were on stage getting shaved in mohawk style.
Helen Clark became patron of the game after former NZRL president Gerald Ryan asked her to do the job once held by Michael Savage.
She has been patron of her local electorate club, Mt Albert Lions, for 20-plus years and told Kiwi captain Stacey Jones she remembered awarding him trophies when he was knee-high and she was a junior MP.
"I've seen the game do a tremendous amount of good for kids in my suburb." Wellington film-maker Peter Jackson is saying a thank-you to hometown fans at halftime tonight with a screening of clips from part two of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Jackson filmed crowds at the venue for the one-day cricket match between the Black Caps and England last summer and uses pictures of chest-thumping, chanting fans in the film.
Around 7000 tickets remain for sale at the gate tonight.
By PETER JESSUP