Field Theory by Hadyn Green

33

Out-yelled by Children

Pick the person who doesn't have kids: one man returns from the concession stand with four punnets of chips, four hamburgers, four bags of fried donuts, pockets full of tomato sauce packets and a jacket stuffed with soft drink bottles.

The other man returns with one bag of donuts, two hotdogs and four beers.

And while my friend was glad for the hotdog, he declined the beer and the kids were unhappy with having to share the fried donuts. Well, that'll teach the wee fellows for booing my team.

Yes, this weekend I managed to obtain free tickets to the top-of-the-table clash between the Mighty Bay of Plenty and the cheating bastard Wellingtonians.

I was decked in glorious sun-yellow and ocean-blue that is the true spirit of the Bay of Plenty. It's a jersey I bought in Rotorua the night the Bay took on the British and Irish Lions, then later that week I got it signed by Bay of Plenty legend Wayne Ormond at a New Zealand Māori All Blacks function I had been invited to. Strangely he signed it "Wayne Ormond 6#". This meant a year or so later when we watched the Bay play Wellington my friends and I were able to yell: "Come on Six Number!"

But I digress.

This weekend was "kids get in free" day at the Stadium, and this is why my friend brought along his kids. In fact, this is why everyone brought along their kids. Well that and the fact that Wellington had put on one of its trademark beautiful days. Sun and crisp air: the perfect combo for afternoon rugby.

And there were plenty of Mums and Dads surrounded by flocks of children in varying degrees of supporter's colours (though my favourite was the girls dressed as princesses, hey, who said you can't go to the rugby dressed as a princess). It was also notable that a lot of the youngsters were dressed in Phoenix apparel. Brian Lochore must be spinning in his grave.

There was a small blemish to this fantastic day of cheerfulness and sunshine. Remember the Phoenix game where the stadium folk didn't have their shit sorted out and long queues meant many season ticket holders were stuck outside while the game was played in front of empty stands? Well it seems they haven't learned.

While children were free, they still required a ticket. Yes, that does sound stupid. What it also meant was there were huge queues outside the stadium while inside the game had started. Who could've guessed that on a sunny Saturday afternoon a game between the two undefeated teams in the competition where kids can get in free would attract a large number of walk-ups?

Finally someone realised that there were a lot of people waiting outside in lines rather than inside spending money on food and merchandise and the gates were opened. And once inside it was clear what a difference a "children are free" day makes.

You know how loud kids sound in a café or a plane; well imagine hundreds and hundreds of children (15,242 was the official crowd figure) packed into a stadium known for its loudness. Now give those kids sugar and inflatable noise-making things and you have some idea of the noise made when Wellington scored. It was, in a word: awesome. And more than that, it was fun.

The children were genuinely excited. The kids we were with would jump up and dance to the music, they stood on the seats, they tried to yell for Wellington as loud as I was yelling for the Bay, and they actually loved the game.

NZRU take note: afternoon games grow the sport.

Before the game I was chatting to some old guys at the pub where I was waiting for my friend. We were discussing games around the country and how they fared. The two guys were annoyed that the Wellington union had doubled the ticket price recently but were complaining that no one was attending matches. "Times are hard all-round" I said. Agreement was nodded into beers.

Just a quick side note here. To cheer for the Bay of Plenty you yell "Go the Bay". The phrase "C'mon the Bay" is one more closely associated with Hawke's Bay. The differences are subtle but important as the Bays (Hawke's, Plenty and Nelson) have quite a strong rivalry stretching all the way back to the days of the first ever NPC in 1976 (won by BOP over Hawke's Bay). "Go the Bay" may sound silly but it is exquisite in it's message; while not specific it conveys a more broad statement of your wish for the Bay players to progress in their many tasks upon the field. No room for misinterpretation there.

Sadly for my proud blue and yellows the day was not to be theirs. They had reverted to their "roll it forward" offence and "no tackle" defence. The "roll it forward" offence is a traditional technique employed by the Bay wherein, should a Bay player be within five metres of the line they must take the ball and roll it along the ground in a forward motion in order to give the opposition possession.

No, I'm not bitter. For those keeping score (and clearly someone was) it was 48-12 to the Lions.

As we exited some Wellington supporters told us "It gonna be a long trip home guys", to which I replied: "To Newtown?"

Actually I do like New Zealand rugby supporters. They are usually quite good natured and won't give you too much of a ribbing (except Cantabrians who I have only heard bad things about).

Even as we walked out of the gates the security guard saw me grinning at a text message and remarked "Good to see you guys are smiling".

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