Brayden Gardyne (10), of Arrowtown, shows All Black captain
Richie McCaw his rugby statistics book at The Hills on
Friday. Photo by Tracey Roxburgh.
Friday is a day 10-year-old Brayden Gardyne is not likely
to forget in a hurry.
The Arrowtown School pupil and rugby fanatic had a private
audience with All Black captain Richie McCaw and team-mates
Corey Jane, Ma'a Nonu, Andrew Hore and Francis Saili at The
Hills, during the players' flying visit to Queenstown as part
of the All Blacks to the Nation.
Brayden, a member of the Arrowtown under-10 rugby team, had
initially wanted to go to the Queenstown Events Centre,
queuing with hundreds of residents and visitors to have their
photo taken with the Webb Ellis Cup - the last opportunity to
do so before the coveted trophy left New Zealand on Saturday
- and hopefully see some of his All Black heroes.
However, his parents Craig and Nicole had been contacted by
the New Zealand Rugby Union, wanting to offer Brayden the
chance to meet the rugby players privately, as a reward for
his exceptional record in the All Blacks ''Game On'' online
Entrants in the competition received five points for
correctly predicting the winning team of all games in the
Investec Rugby Championship.
Three additional points were awarded for the correct margin,
and 20 points for predicting a draw.
As of Friday, Brayden was in second place in New Zealand, out
of 944 competitors.
After trying to persuade his parents to take him to the
events centre and being told they were too busy, he tried,
unsuccessfully, to convince his visiting grandfather to take
Mrs Gardyne said Brayden was devastated he wouldn't get a
chance to see the trophy, or the All Blacks.
''We were feeling absolutely terrible about it,'' she said.
He was eventually taken to The Hills where he believed he was
going to be interviewed by a NZRU representative about his
performance in the competition.
When he arrived at Sir Michael Hill's private golf course,
however, he was shocked to see Hore and McCaw first, followed
by Nonu, Saili and Jane and even more so when he realised he
was there to meet them.
After proudly showing McCaw his impressive statistics book -
where he records the name of every starting player and
reserve in every rugby game, complete with his own codes to
identify tries, conversions and penalties - he was presented
with an All Blacks jersey and a ball signed by the entire
For the All Blacks, it was the second stop on their quick
tour of Queenstown, which was hampered initially when a
scheduled flight bringing McCaw, Jane and Nonu to the resort
was delayed by about an hour.
Children from Remarkables Primary School waited patiently in
the events centre stadium.
The players' arrival was signalled by a deafening roar from
the children and their excited parents.
After meeting invited guests, including Queenstown Lakes
district councillors, at The Hills, the players took to Sir
Michael's course for an informal longest-drive competition.
While some were naturals with the golf club, others required
some tutelage from The Hills superintendent Brendan Allen.
From there, the group headed to Wakatipu High School and were
welcomed with a haka, before giving some insights on
Nonu was clearly a crowd favourite, blowing kisses to the
hundreds of pupils before greeting a group of junior rugby
players who rushed at him screaming ''Nonu, Nonu, Nonu''.
For one pupil it was all too much and she burst into tears
after having her photograph taken with Nonu and McCaw.
The final stop was Queenstown Airport, where the players were
mobbed within seconds of arriving, putting paid to plans to
have the players check in travellers' baggage.
McCaw said the quick visit to Queenstown had been ''great''.
''The last couple of years we've done this sort of thing
around the country. I think it's pretty special for little
towns. It's our chance to say thanks.''