All Blacks players Sam Cane, Liam Messam and Tawera Kerr-Barlow were swamped by fans at the Mātaatua Reserve in Whakatāne this morning.
According to Pouroto Ngaropo of Ngāti Awa, “the town won the opportunity to host them when they submitted their performance of the ‘haka’ at a recent event held in their town a month ago.”
The performance was sent to the New Zealand Rugby Union and Whakatāne became one of the fifteen lucky towns the All Blacks will visit before heading to the United Kingdom for the Rugby World Cup.
Over a thousand people attended the event with the three players arriving in a helicopter from Tauranga.
Maddison Himiona of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Oriini ki Ngāti Awa was excited the players were coming to her small town.
“It’s really good to see them come and visit so we can show them how much we appreciated them coming,” says Himiona.
As the players walked towards the stage they were mobbed by fans of all ages.
Liam Messam expressed his disappointment at question time at not being able to sign everyone’s memorabilia due to the huge turnout but he did say that being in Whakatāne was something he will always remember.
The players will continue on to Ōpōtiki where they will be greeted with another big crowd at 2pm.
Te Kāea reporter Mere McLean will have more on this story tonight at 5:30 and 7pm.