All-Blacks return home to a frenzy of Hakas

Published November 4, 2015
Students perform a Hakka for New Zealand's All Blacks after their arrival at a parade and official welcome for the team in Auckland. — AFP
Students perform a Hakka for New Zealand's All Blacks after their arrival at a parade and official welcome for the team in Auckland. — AFP

AUCKLAND: The All Blacks returned home to a frenzy of hakas and hysteria on Wednesday, with even the players stunned as 50,000 fans packed central Auckland to celebrate their Rugby World Cup triumph.

Dozens of airport workers performed a Maori haka on the tarmac as the players stepped off their specially black-painted Air New Zealand plane, flight code NZ1, to be met by joyous scenes.

New Zealand players make their way to the stage at the welcome home ceremony for the All Blacks in Auckland. — AP
New Zealand players make their way to the stage at the welcome home ceremony for the All Blacks in Auckland. — AP

Skipper Richie McCaw emerged first from the plane clutching the William Webb Ellis trophy, and inside the airport, about 4,000 black-clad supporters, some of whom had camped out overnight, were there to greet the players in the packed arrivals hall.

There were more haka war dances from students and a formal Maori welcome at Auckland's Victoria Park, where McCaw received the loudest cheer and was given the freedom of the city by mayor Len Brown.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw speaks during a parade and official welcome for the team in Auckland. — AFP
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw speaks during a parade and official welcome for the team in Auckland. — AFP

“The support's been amazing, so to bring this back is pretty awesome,” McCaw said.

“It's not too bad is it?” chimed in coach Steve Hansen, gesturing towards the trophy. “We're getting pretty used to having it around too.”

All Blacks rugby union team Captain Richie McCaw (L) holds the Webb Ellis Cup with head coach Steve Hansen during a public event celebrating the victory by the New Zealand team. — Reuters
All Blacks rugby union team Captain Richie McCaw (L) holds the Webb Ellis Cup with head coach Steve Hansen during a public event celebrating the victory by the New Zealand team. — Reuters

New Zealand's 34-17 victory over Australia in the final at Twickenham on Saturday made them the first team to win back-to-back World Cups.

It also gave the All Blacks a record three titles and was marked the first time they have won the trophy away from home.

All Blacks rugby union team Captain Richie McCaw (C) speaks to the crowd as he stands in front of his team during a public event celebrating the victory by the New Zealand team at the recent Rugby World Cup. — Reuters
All Blacks rugby union team Captain Richie McCaw (C) speaks to the crowd as he stands in front of his team during a public event celebrating the victory by the New Zealand team at the recent Rugby World Cup. — Reuters

“It's huge to come back and see all this support and everyone turning out, it's just overwhelming,” the tournament's breakout star Nehe Milner-Skudder said as the Victoria Park crowd roared its approval.

Prime Minister John Key said the mood in New Zealand was “euphoric”, adding that even Britain's Prince Charles and wife Camilla, who arrived on Wednesday for an official visit, were keen to congratulate McCaw's men, schedules permitting.

“They obviously can see what a big deal it is for New Zealand and how celebrated they will be,” Key told TV3.

All Blacks Keven Mealamu (L) and Ma'a Nonu (R) smile at a parade and official welcome for the rugby team in Auckland. — AFP
All Blacks Keven Mealamu (L) and Ma'a Nonu (R) smile at a parade and official welcome for the rugby team in Auckland. — AFP

Amazing support

Star fly-half Dan Carter, who has confirmed his international retirement and will now head to France, was also thrilled by the welcome.

Students perform a Hakka for New Zealand's All Blacks after their arrival at a parade and official welcome for the team in Auckland. — AFP
Students perform a Hakka for New Zealand's All Blacks after their arrival at a parade and official welcome for the team in Auckland. — AFP

“It's such a special feeling,” Carter told reporters. “We're all proud New Zealanders and it's amazing to see the support that we've got.

“We'd read about it and spoken to family and friends back home, but to see it first hand — it's great.”

But it was a day for the fans, and the All Blacks, displaying the same relaxed off-field attitude they adopted during the tournament, mingled with the crowd, signing autographs and posing for selfies with star-struck fans.

New Zealand winger Nehe Milner-Skudder rubs noses with fan Kuratiwaka Ngarimu during a welcome home parade for the All Blacks in Auckland. — AP
New Zealand winger Nehe Milner-Skudder rubs noses with fan Kuratiwaka Ngarimu during a welcome home parade for the All Blacks in Auckland. — AP

“It's a real cool buzz the guys are loving it,” retiring centre Conrad Smith said.

Katherine Tanner said she brought her sons Liam, three, and 10-year-old Elijah, to see the players they had worshipped during the World Cup.

Students perform a Hakka for New Zealand's All Blacks after their arrival at a parade and official welcome for the team in Auckland. — AFP
Students perform a Hakka for New Zealand's All Blacks after their arrival at a parade and official welcome for the team in Auckland. — AFP

“To me there wasn't a choice, it's sporting history in the making,” she told the New Zealand Herald.

“You can't help but get swept up in the euphoria of it. “There will be similar parades in Christchurch and Wellington on Thursday and Friday.

McCaw said the team were exhausted after their campaign but still wanted to share their moment of glory with supporters.

“We're going to enjoy the next few days going around the country and saying thanks — seeing you all here has made it all worthwhile,” he said.

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