Rousing Auckland reception for All Blacks
AUCKLAND, 3 Sept. - With his three-year-old granddaughter Molly perched on his shoulders, Graeme Taiaroa fulfilled a vow he made 24 years ago when he took part in a rapturous welcoming ceremony for the All Blacks on Saturday.
Taiaroa missed the official welcome the last time the World Cup was in New Zealand and he was taking no chances, arriving at Aotea Square three hours early to cheer on the team he holds closest to his heart.
"This game unifies this country,'' said Taiaroa as he looked across a jam-packed square that was a sea of New Zealand and All Blacks flags.
The square had begun to fill five hours before the ceremony and an estimated 3,000 people started chanting, "All Blacks, All Blacks'' when their heroes stepped off a bus and walked on to the stage.
"On that bus are 30 players who hold the hope of a nation,'' said the stage announcer.
The 45-minute event was steeped in Maori tradition and mayor Len Brown led everyone in singing Te Aroha, a traditional love song.
Captain Richie McCaw addressed the crowd on behalf of the team and thanked everyone for their backing.
"The boys have been out visiting towns across the country and the support is huge,'' said McCaw. "We are finally here and, from the All Blacks' point of view, we are excited.
"Come October 23 (the day of the final), we have a goal in mind. We will do our best."
That was music to the ears of Tyrone Crewe, who brought along his five-year-old son Rorke.
"I am South African but I am backing Black," he said. "All Blacks all the way."
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