October 24, 2011
Posted on 10/24/2011
'It's such a small little trophy but what it means is huge'
If there was any doubt that the people of New Zealand were not the real stars of this Rugby World Cup, that scepticism was blown away by simply astonishing show of support in the wake of the All Blacks’ dramatic victory over France in the tournament finale.
A crowd estimated to be in the region of 250,000 packed the streets of Auckland city centre on Monday afternoon to hail their victorious team and add yet another colourful chapter to an already vibrant slice of rugby history. It is now blindingly obvious that the ‘stadium of four million’ that World Cup organisers promised in New Zealand was so much more than catchy marketing slogan - it was a statement of fact.
Fans, who were encouraged to show their support by wearing black and bringing their flags, found their spot early along the route that took in Customs Street West, Queen Street and Wellesley Street. Evidently still high from their side’s long-awaited triumph the previous evening, there was a distinct party atmosphere, fuelled by the sunshine that bathed the event and the fact that it was also a public holiday.
The crowd was clearly bursting with pride and the odd rendition of God Defend New Zealand, the national anthem, and the now familiar chant of ‘All Blacks, All Blacks’ could be heard above the buzz of expectation. With the start of the parade just minutes away, the scene was incredible.
Every possible vantage point was taken – bus stops, lamp posts and traffic lights were crawling with people while high above the city streets more fans peered down from office windows. The vast majority of those present could not hope for more than a glimpse of the All Blacks with the crowd thousands deep in places and backed up into the surrounding streets. But they did seem to care, they were happy to just be here sharing in a special day for their team and their country, one that would generate stories for generations to come.
The appearance of the players, on the back of a series of pick-up trucks, lifted the occasion to a whole new level. Dark glasses suggested the previous night had been a long one, while the sight of the likes of scrum-half Piri Weepu and centre Ma’a Nonu dancing their way along the route hinted that the celebration had not stopped since the final whistle.
The crowd exploded into life as each member of the All Blacks’ squad, management and support staff, acknowledged their support with special praise emanating from the media contingent as their always affable media man Joe Locke. But the biggest roar was reserved for the sight of head coach Graham Henry and captain Richie McCaw when they stood side by side and held the Webb Ellis Cup aloft.
“It’s such a small little trophy but what it means is huge,” was McCaw’s astute assessment into one of many microphones thrust towards him in the hope of getting an insight into his emotions on such a magical day.
The feel-good factor is set to continue for the rest of this week with further parades planned for Christchurch and then Wellington later this week but such is the euphoria that it is likely to carry the All Blacks all the way to their defence of the World Cup crown in 2015.
The parade was such a special and fitting way to end a truly memorable tournament and an unforgettable trip. New Zealand did themselves proud on so many fronts and for that we can only be thankful.