New Zealand-based Toa Samoa fans are displaying their colours with pride throughout the country ahead of one of the biggest moments in the history of Samoan sport.
Supporters have taken to the streets this afternoon - including in Auckland’s CBD - as they prepare for the Rugby League World Cup final to be played tomorrow morning in the UK.
Toa Samoa face-off against defending champions the Kangaroos. While they are huge underdogs, the TAB said earlier this week that most bets placed with them from punters were backing Samoa to pull off a huge upset and win.
Earlier today, flag-carrying fans paraded Auckland streets, with police issuing an appeal for them to hold “safe and sensible celebrations”.
And in Hawke’s Bay, several thousand Toa Samoa fans gathered in central Napier as the hours tick down to kick-off. Most are in the Sound Shell on Marine Parade, while several hundred others are on a closed section of the road.
Toa Samoa has defied pre-tournament predictions that they would struggle to make the top four, and fierce criticism of their coaching unit, to make the final. They made the showdown after upsetting hosts England in the semis.
Live coverage of the game will available via a big-screen at a fan zone being set up tonight at Ihumātao.
The independently organised event is pitched as family-friendly, with no alcohol, smoking or drugs allowed, and no fireworks will be permitted to avoid fire risks.
Gates will open at 2am tomorrow for attendees to set up a spot in front of the big screen, and there may be a special screening of the Kiwi Ferns game against Australia kicking off at 2:15am.
Food will be available to buy on-site, and attendees are encouraged to bring something comfortable to sit on and dress warmly as there is a chance of rain.
The event is keeping with tikanga, opening and closing with a karakia.
Accessibility will be restricted to Ihumatao Rd, off George Bolt Memorial Drive near Auckland Airport.
The Ascot Road/Oruarangi Rd entry will be closed to the public.
“We have to make sure the family on that side is not disturbed so respect them and their wishes,” Fitz said.
As fans gather - and the hype grows ahead of tomorrow morning’s final - Auckland police have advised motorists to expect delays in several areas across the city.
“Congestion has been building around Westgate shopping centre, Parrs Park, Ōtāhuhu town centre, Mangere town centre, and Ōtara town centre,” a police spokesperson said this afternoon.
Police are recommending that people avoid these areas unless necessary as traffic is significantly impacted.
In a statement released by police yesterday, Counties Manukau District Commander Jill Rogers said, “The community can expect to see a highly visible police presence this weekend on the streets of Tāmaki Makaurau to help keep the public safe, and prevent any disorder incidents, surrounding Sunday morning’s Rugby League World Cup final match between Samoa and Australia.
“Over the past few weeks, police have been dealing with a number of disorder events following Tongan and Samoan supporters taking their celebrations to the streets of South Auckland, particularly in Counties Manukau west, including Māngere and Ōtāhuhu,” she said.
One person received serious injuries last week after sliding off a moving car they were sitting on and was run over. While they are now recovering in a stable condition, police say they do not want any repeat incidents.
“We are aware of planned celebrations, including a parade in Clendon Shopping Centre on Friday, a parade in the Auckland CBD on Saturday, and that a dedicated fan zone has been organised in Māngere ahead of the much-anticipated final. These will all be monitored accordingly,” Rogers said.
Eastern District Commander Lincoln Sycamore said Hawke’s Bay police will have a visible presence this weekend including at a fans’ event planned for the Sound Shell on Saturday.
After Samoa’s win over the English last weekend, police received several calls about a convoy of 20 to 30 vehicles travelling from Hastings to Napier, Sycamore said, with callers concerned about driver and passenger behaviour, and the risk the slow speeds were posing to other drivers.
“It’s really important to us that people are driving in a safe manner and that passengers are restrained. Police will be acting on reports of unsafe behaviour - we don’t want anyone getting hurt,” Sycamore said.
Hutt Valley Area Commander, Inspector Dion Bennett said, “Police are aware of a number of gatherings planned and are urging fans and whānau to have fun, but look out for and respect those around them.
“We wish our Samoan aiga all the best - fly your flags high, but please keep yourselves and others safe,” he said.
Police are aware of convoys planned for the afternoon and early evening on Saturday in Waitangirua and Cannons Creek, and Fraser Park in Riverside.
A convoy is also planned for late Saturday night in the Wellington region from Waitangirua through Porirua CBD to the train station, as well as big screens set up in Cannons Creek and Porirua.
“Regardless of whether you’re backing blue or going for the green and gold, remember – don’t drop the ball, and keep yourselves and everyone else safe until the last play,” Bennett said.
Toa Samoa will play Australia in the Rugby League World Cup final at Old Trafford Stadium in the UK on Sunday morning.
The match is scheduled to kick off at 5am NZT.
The New Zealand Kiwi Ferns are set to play the curtain-raiser at 2.15am when they take on the Australian Jillaroos in the Women’s Rugby League World Cup final.
New fan zone announced for South Auckland
Ihumātao is being set up to host Toa Samoa fans tomorrow morning for the final match of the Rugby League World Cup between Samoa and Australia.
Event organiser “Fitz”, the founder of twosevenfive barbershop in Māngere, announced the location of the Island Nations Fanzone Screening event in a video on social media.
”We’re having it here at Ihumātao,” the entrepreneur says as he steps back from the camera to show his surroundings of the historic Otuataua Stone Fields.
Ihumātao whanau and whenua representative Qiane Matata-Sipu says, “We’re all about whanau. We’re all about celebrating our indigenous cultures and indigenous heritage, and we’re all about celebrating kotahitanga (unity) here in Māngere and here in Ihumatao.”
She says it is a beautiful opportunity to screen the game and host as she acknowledges the support the Samoan community put behind the Ihumātao in recent years.
”Lots of our own whanau have whakapapa ties to Samoa, so why not?”
The event is pitched as family-friendly, with no alcohol, smoking or drugs allowed, and no fireworks will be permitted to avoid fire risks.Gates will open at 2am tomorrow for attendees to set up a spot in front of the big screen, and there may be a special screening of the Kiwi Ferns game against Australia kicking off at 2:15am.
Food will be available to buy on site, and attendees are encouraged to bring something comfortable to sit on and dress warmly as there is a chance of rain.
The event is keeping with tikanga, opening and closing with a karakia.
Accessibility will be restricted to Ihumatao Road, off George Bolt Memorial Drive near Auckland Airport.The Ascot Road/Oruarangi Road entry will be closed to the public.
”We have to make sure the family on that side is not disturbed so respect them and their wishes,” says Fitz.