Former All Black captain Richie McCaw dropped in by helicopter to visit the kids of a small Northland school — all thanks to a 7-year-old girl who wanted to make her friends happy.
McCaw's visit to Okaihau Primary School on Tuesday was the first of four planned around New Zealand to mark five years of Fonterra's Milk for Schools programme.
Any school could be nominated for ''Richie's Milk Run'' with a judging panel given the unenviable task of choosing the winners from 25,000 entries which flooded in from around the country.
Okaihau caught the judges' attention because of the sheer number of nominations — 130 from a school of just 160 kids — but the clincher was a letter written by 7-year-old Mia Rumble.
Mia said McCaw should choose Okaihau not for her sake but because her two best friends, boys named Millar and Leo, were his "absolute biggest fans".
The All Blacks legend touched down on the school field at 10am on Tuesday for a welcome by a crowd of very excited kids and possibly even more excited parents.
He was welcomed with waiata and mihimihi with Labour MP Willow-Jean Prime translating, then posed for some special class photos and took part in a series of team games, including four-way tug-of-war.
He also answered questions about why he retired, whether he missed rugby, and how it felt to win the Rugby World Cup (sheer relief after the first one, but he couldn't get enough the second time and wished the game would never end).
McCaw said kids around the country had submitted awesome entries but Mia's letter ''just stuck a little bit out'' from the rest.
As for Mia, she said she nominated her school because she wanted to make everyone happy, especially Millar and Leo, McCaw's biggest fans.
''Millar and Leo have always been really nice to me, even though I'm a girl. They've never done anything mean to me. I asked Richie to come to our school because I knew it would make everyone happy, and that's what I like.''
Her verdict on McCaw was that he was ''a really nice guy''.
''I could tell he misses rugby but as well as that he loves his new job.''
Principal Tim Couling said it had been a great honour to host the former All Blacks captain.
''He proved the sort of person he is by how well he interacted with the kids while he was here. The kids have been absolutely in awe, thrilled, excited... All the adjectives you can think of, we've had them.''
Fonterra Milk for Schools started as a pilot programme in Northland in 2012. It now provides free milk to 145,000 children a day.