During the September semester break, I was able to head off to New Zealand (NZ) and spend some time on the North Island, while also taking in a Rugby World Cup (RWC) match in Napier-Hastings at McLean Park on 27 September 2011. This was an unplanned trip that I booked while I was attending the EASM2011 conference, as I thought it would be an once-in-a-lifetime experience to attend a World Cup of any kind.
NZ was really pumped up and excited for the RWC (based on talking to kiwis and seeing all the billboards in support of the All Blacks) and I was lucky to see the All Blacks play from the fan zone on the viaduct in Auckland on the 24th. I tried to get tickets to see the match between the NZ All Blacks and France (I even went to Eden Park to buy some), however, there were too costly as I’m not a lottery winner. 1 ticket was NZ$460*. And that was a category 1 ticket (i.e. the most expensive). All the other categories were sold out. So I went back downtown to the fan zone to watch the game. It was such a spectacle though that the fan zone was at capacity, which was 20000 people, so I had to watch part of this game in a bar before my second attempt at entry was successful!
The next day I drove to Rotorua, which is famous for the thermal springs and boiling mud. The reason I travelled to Rotorua was to try to get tickets to see the match between Russia and Ireland. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful. I was told that the Ireland bandwagon was full because Ireland beat the favoured Australian Wallabies team 15-6 in its previous match. Some Irish supporters with whom I spoke told me that they stayed longer in NZ because of the team’s success which left me to watch the game in an Irish bar with the other faithful souls who couldn’t get tickets either. Nonetheless, there was lots of drink to be had and a great time. On a fun positive note (not that this post needs more positivity) is that I stayed at the same hotel as team Russia. Nonetheless, after the 61-12 Irish win, the Russians didn’t make an appearance in the hotel bar where many people watched the end of the Scotland-Argentina match.
After a greasy breakfast to quell my hangover, I headed to the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal pools, where I was able to enjoy a great sunny morning and see the boiling water and the boiling mud for which this area is famous. I’d been to the geothermal pools before on my first trip to NZ, but thought it would be fun to go again. I was right; it’s such a novelty, that my delight was equal to the first time. Next, I drove to Napier to get ready for the Canada-Japan game the following day. It was a great drive to Napier with a stop in Taupo for lunch and a short walk. The rest of the drive had some wonderful sights and great weather to make the drive go by very quickly. In Napier, I went to its information centre, the I-Site to book my accommodation and get some information on the city where I would be spending 30 hours or so.
Once checked in to the hotel, it was time to find the stadium and get my tickets from the office. I was highly successful with the first task, as the stadium (McLean Park) was within a ten minute walk from my hotel and the Canadian team was practising when I got there. It was a closed practise, but I was able to watch behind a fence. I felt like a 10-year-old child waiting for the sporting hero. I, then, decided to wait by the team bus to wish the team luck and say hello. By doing this, I got to meet two of the Canadian players (one of whom was Taylor Paris) and its coach (Kieran Crowley) before the team left for its hotel. All three were very nice and appreciative of the support that they’d been receiving in NZ.
The next day, I took in the nice weather and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Napier before getting my costume on for the game (jersey, face tattoos, wig, etc). There were many people decorated in their team’s colours of red and white (both Canada and Japan’s colours). So one didn’t readily know which team the red/white person was supporting until you saw the shirt or spoke with them. There was much to do in the CBD of Napier, from a rugby themed jumping castle to viewing the art deco buildings for which Napier is famous. About an hour before the game, I went to the stadium to find my seat, take in the atmosphere, and enjoy the sights and sounds. I got lucky again, as I was able to see the Canadian team enter the stadium off of the bus and the players greeted the fans very nicely and politely, which was great.
The game was a great experience, with Canada easily outplaying Japan on the set pieces, but the final score did not reflect this, as it ended in a 23-all tie. It was a great back and forth game, with neither side able to secure the win. All in all, it was a super experience at the Rugby World Cup except what happened after the game, which was a 5.5 hour drive to Auckland to catch my flight back to Melbourne.
* Note: all figures are in New Zealand dollars unless indicated. Click here to convert NZ dollars to your home currency.