The World Test Championship winning Black Caps embarked on a week-long nationwide tour on Monday, showing off the spoils of their momentous finals win against India in England in June. Reporter and cricket tragic Adam Pearse travelled alongside the team to find out what the achievement truly meant to the fans.
Black Caps fans are no strangers to heartbreak and disappointment.
In recent years, that assessment couldn't be more true. All New Zealand cricket followers will clearly remember the pain of being blown away by Australia in 2015's 50-over world cup final and pipped at the post by England in the same competition four years later.
Just two years later, 22 Kiwi cricketers became the inaugural world test champions in a thrilling contest spanning six days at Southampton's Ageas Bowl, claiming the iconic mace trophy.
In celebration of their momentous achievement, the Black Caps hit the road on Monday - the first of a seven-day tour from Whangārei to Invercargill, giving fans a chance to share in their victory.
Day 1: 'He hit me for six into the sale yards'
The only indication Tim Southee is anyone special as he arrives at the Maungakaramea Cricket Club in Northland on Monday morning is the 10-kilogram, gold-plated mace in his hands.
Other than that, it's just another visit home for the Waiotira School pupil whose parents' farm lies southwest of Whangārei.
Women stretch on tip-toes to kiss his cheek. The men go in for strong handshakes, failing to mask their awe of the paceman.
Neville Child, a stalwart of New Zealand dog trials, performs the age old duty of quizzing Southee at length on all things cricket.
A few schoolkids from the nearby Maungakaramea School make their way across the field to gaze at the trophy. The initial rule of wearing gloves while holding the trophy quickly goes out the window.
Incredibly, local bowling club member Barry tells me he's unearthed two of Southee's age-group Northern Districts representative caps from the Tauraroa Area dump - which the Black Cap later signed.
While his name doesn't appear on the club's honour's board - owing to his rarity of appearances for Maungakaramea - the value of the Southee name is clear in the small farming community.
Murray Child, a Northern Districts and Northland representative himself, says the Bay of Plenty-based Black Cap is still loyal to the club.
"Whenever he is home, he always plays," Child says.
However, Southee's memories of his most recent run on the Maungakaramea artificial pitch aren't so pleasant.
In an annual pre-season game against Karaka Cricket Club, Southee helped his side to a win. However, one batsman took little notice of the bowler's pedigree during his innings.
"He hit me for six into the sale yards," Southee remarks with a rueful laugh.
The Herald tracked down the big hitter - former Karaka Cricket Club president Michael Schofield.
Recovering from the initial confusion of being asked about a pre-season game 10 months ago, Schofield reveals he'd sent another one of Southee's balls over the rope, albeit with his eyes firmly shut.
"[Tim] probably forgot to tell you, he got hit for two sixes, one went further."
Asked whether he would offer any advice to the world champion bowler, Schofield pauses - apparently torn between the prospect of goading Southee and the ridicule he would face from his peers by doing so.
He elects not to comment.
The trip down memory lane comes to an end as Southee and the mace head into Whangārei for the first of many fan events.
Gathered in the Johnston Crawford Indoor Centre - named after two Northland cricket identities in their own right - Black Caps Ajaz Patel and Will Somerville join their teammate to meet and greet hundreds of Northlanders.
After a few conversations with patient fans, you soon appreciate the effort of less enthusiastic partners, wives and children who reluctantly hold their place in line, alongside ecstatic husbands, fathers and siblings with eyes only for the mace.
Raj Khan, from Auckland, is one such husband and father who has his wife and daughter in tow.
"It was a massive dream to see them win something before I die," he says.
At only 28 years old, there's a lack of confidence in future success - but his enthusiasm is shared by most.
Three generations of the Thomson family are just as eager. Grandfather Murray, 64, father Dylan, 37, and son Jacob, 10, say they have been ardent fans of the national side for as long as they can remember.
However, a more surprising visit comes in the form of a dozen students from Te Horo School, a kura placed deep in the Pipiwai bush - rugby territory.
As principal Sandra Toapuho explains, none of the children in attendance have played cricket, but today's trip was about giving them opportunities they might not ordinarily have.
Day 2: 'This is when you know you've made it'
For 5-year-old Hugo Somerville, seeing dad Will awarded a world test championship medal is the coolest thing he's seen all week.
Along with 3-year-old sister Zoe, Hugo is almost jumping out of his skin as deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson drapes the medal around the off-spinner's neck in the Eden Park changing rooms in Auckland.
In contrast, 3-month-old Oliver couldn't be less interested - dozing away in his stroller.
Asked which of his children he would pass the medal on to, Somerville suggests tradition dictates it be Hugo as the eldest.
Somerville and Jeet Raval are being awarded their championship medals at the Auckland stadium on Tuesday, where several hundred fans patiently wait on a glorious winter's day in the City of Sails.
What starts out as a relaxed gathering of players, media and support staff, soon becomes a cacophony.
Excited chatter from schoolkids echoes all around, messages to the crowd rings out from loud speakers.
Oliver Somerville is now well and truly awake - and he is not pleased.
Someone who can't wipe the smile off her face, however, is 18-year-old Monalisa Verma.
The Parnell premier women's all-rounder idolises the national sides and has her eyes set on joining them one day.
"I'd like to try."
Simply playing is a monumental feat for Verma. After starting the sport at 11, she was diagnosed with leukemia, which forced her to abandon the game she loved for five long years.
While it's not all plain sailing now, mother Anju says her daughter's determination and love for the game is what drives her.
"She gets tired but she never gives up - because it's cricket, she can do anything."
If Oliver thought it was loud inside the changing rooms, it reaches a whole new decibel when 31 students from Mt Wellington's Panama Rd School explode into a haka - received by bowler Neil Wagner and coach Gary Stead.
They perform Ko te toka, which describes a rock holding its ground against the oncoming tide - much like the Black Caps against a powerful Indian wave, kapa haka tutor Pharryn Mantell explains.
Asked whether her students, all of whom play cricket, find it hard to identify with the Black Caps given the team's dearth of Māori and Pasifika faces, Mantell instead believes it gives them motivation.
"I think it's more of a push for them, I think it's an empowerment for them to make it."
National selector Gavin Larsen is greeting fans at the door. He, too, seems overjoyed at the occasion, particularly after the heartbreak of losing to England in 2019.
"It was really hard to reconcile it in your mind as to how that happened and why it happened," he says.
"I will take that feeling with me to my grave, but now with what's happened here, it's the polar opposite."
It's a different conversation when you talk to coach Stead. More of a cricket realist than a tragic, Stead brushes off the past, choosing to focus on the tangible outcomes of this year's win.
"We want to inspire young boys and girls to keep playing the game and I think we've done that from the people that we've seen around the country."
Walking out towards the green turf of Eden Park, a boy - no older than 10 - excitedly ponders to his friend: "Imagine what it feels like to walk out here."
Not five seconds later, another boy of the same age throws his arms open at the enormity of the stadium, saying: "This is when you know you've made it."
Day 3: 'I just want to say thank you'
There's a full carpark at Tauranga Intermediate School on Wednesday morning.
Students welcome the Black Caps with a rousing haka before a Q&A session featuring Raval, Wagner Mitchell Santner and the recently retired BJ Watling.
One boy asks the players if they're superstitious.
Watling and Wagner out their absent teammate Ross Taylor, detailing how the prolific batsman won't let others touch his gear for fear of Lady Luck looking on him unfavourably.
During the meet and greet, Aaron, 51, proudly rolls up his sleeve to reveal a tattoo of a cricket ball, inscribed with the words: "ICC WTC New Zealand World Champions 2021".
Claiming to have visited every major cricket ground in the country, Aaron also cites the pain of 2015 and 2019 in why this win was all the more sweet.
"There was self-doubt way back then, but now they know they can do it."
The next destination is a homecoming of sorts for Santner and Watling. Arriving at Hamilton Boys' High School, the two old boys are welcomed as if it were yesterday they were walking to class, schoolbag in hand.
The school's sporting and academic achievements covers the walls. A staff member starts with a poem written especially for Watling.
Santner, who also didn't play in the final but made crucial contributions in earlier fixtures, is presented his medal by former coach Chris Kuggeleijn.
Hearing Kuggeleijn, a former national representative, talk about his former charges gives you an idea of the care and effort he puts into his players.
"Team men, thinking about other people and being a giver and not a taker," he says of Watling and Santner.
After the customary photos with old teachers, the players are gone in a flash - set for their final engagement in Kirikiriroa at the Centre Place Shopping Mall.
A long queue snakes its way past stores and around escalators as hundreds wait to get their picture with the mace.
Daniel Hunter, 42, is still aggrieved by the loss in 2019 as he delves into the specifics of ethical batsmanship.
However, his predictions for the future are much more positive.
"I'm still confident that this is a special team and this is only beginning of our dominance."
Jill Tasker, 81, says she's being watching cricket at the nearby Seddon Park since she was 16.
She's now one of a dozen ladies who take their usual spot in the crowd with their favourite cushions, as keen followers of the Northern Districts and the Black Caps.
Joanna, Merle and Marie - all over 70 - took the bus from Te Awamutu to see the players.
"I just want to say thank you," Joanna says.
"We're just wanting to let them know they have fans."