Billeting fine way to know the team

Arrowtown junior rugby player Johnny Ffisk (9) bats one-handed during a game of backyard cricket in Arrowtown last night while Highlander John Hardie watches the wickets. Photo by Tracey Roxburgh.
Arrowtown junior rugby player Johnny Ffisk (9) bats one-handed during a game of backyard cricket in Arrowtown last night while Highlander John Hardie watches the wickets. Photo by Tracey Roxburgh.
The Highlanders got a taste of home life in the Wakatipu last night when they were billeted by junior rugby players in Queenstown and Arrowtown.

The two exceptions were former All Black Brad Thorne and Highlanders co-captain Ben Smith, whose company was auctioned off for the night - fetching $650 and $350 respectively - at a Wakatipu Rugby Club fundraiser lunch in Queenstown yesterday.

Following the captain's run at the Queenstown Recreation Ground yesterday afternoon, the remainder of the players met their billets for the overnight stay.

In Arrowtown, several players including Buxton Popoalii, Nasi Manu, John Hardie and Kane Hames, stopped by the Arrowtown senior rugby pre-season training before briefly swapping codes and making the most of the Central Otago summer with a spirited game of backyard cricket.

Their pre-season pre-match dinner - a barbecue - was finished off with a pre-game dessert of lollies.

Highlanders commercial manager Mike Kerr said it was the second time the team had been billeted in the region - last year they stayed with families in Ranfurly.

''It's a great initiative ... we see it as the most personal way to liaise with our fans and our communities ... that's better than turning up to any signing session.''

The Highlanders will play the Brumbies at the Queenstown Recreation Ground tonight. Kick-off is 6pm.