Rest home residents' poetry moves All Blacks

At South Dunedin's Radius Fulton Care Centre residents Allein Kettink (left) and Gladys Smith get...
At South Dunedin's Radius Fulton Care Centre residents Allein Kettink (left) and Gladys Smith get to know Kieran Read. Photo by Gerard O'Brien
All Black captain Richie McCaw checks on Mataura School pupil Dion Woodrow (6) yesterday during a...
All Black captain Richie McCaw checks on Mataura School pupil Dion Woodrow (6) yesterday during a game of touch bullrush. Photo by Peter McIntosh
Mataura School pupils perform a haka for the visiting All Blacks. Photo by Photo by Gerard O'Brien
Mataura School pupils perform a haka for the visiting All Blacks. Photo by Photo by Gerard O'Brien
Tahuna Intermediate pupils warm to All Blacks Ben Smith, Ben Franks and Kieran Read. Photo by...
Tahuna Intermediate pupils warm to All Blacks Ben Smith, Ben Franks and Kieran Read. Photo by Peter McIntosh

Most of the rugby world would love to knock over the All Blacks. And a group of South Dunedin rest home residents know how to do it.

The Radius Fulton Care Centre residents penned a poem for their rugby heroes, videoed themselves reciting it, and sent it through to the team as part of the ''All Blacks to the Nation'' competition.

And as one of 10 winners, they won the chance to host the All Blacks. Another winner was Mataura School.

Yesterday, All Blacks Ben Smith, Kieran Read and Ben Franks walked into the rest home lounge. After a welcome haka from Musselburgh School's kapa haka group, the three watched a recording of the poem.

The lines, delivered by the residents in wavering voices, spoke of the men of previous wars who had ''fought with pride, so you could play 15 a side''.

Those battles had shifted from mud to turf, the poem continued.

''The ball they pass on to you, and so remember the glorious few.''

On the small stage the three All Blacks appeared visibly moved. Smith said afterwards: ''It shows how important rugby is to a lot of people.''

Most of the All Blacks' ''community engagements'' centred on schools and young people, he said. The older supporters were seldom seen at games.

''But they get in here and watch us on a Saturday night. And seeing that [poem] you sort of realise the memories they have through rugby.''

The All Blacks were met at Dunedin Airport by 5 and 6 year olds from Mosgiel's Elmgrove School. The All Blacks handed out lollies and posed for photographs with children, parents, teachers and other airport visitors.

They then moved to a nearby departure gate, where Read made the boarding calls over the intercom.

One passenger had a more personal meeting with Read after she left her scarf in the airport's waiting lounge and Air NZ staff sent the All Blacks No 8 on to the plane to return it.

The tour later rolled on to Bayfield High School, where the players and pupils cooked chicken together before sitting down to lunch - chicken and salad wraps.

Bayfield principal Judith Forbes said the school's recent efforts at promoting healthy eating had been the deciding factor in the All Blacks choosing the school, which was ''wonderful for our kids''.

Tahuna Intermediate pupils then welcomed the players with a haka, before subjecting them to a testing question and answer session.

The All Blacks were asked how the public treated them after a loss, whether they really enjoyed sponsorship commitments, and how many Weet Bix they each ate.

Franks explained he and his brother, fellow All Black Owen, used to fill their mother's saucepan with up to 10 Weet Bix, before adding more and more as breakfast became a competition to see who could eat the most.

Invariably their mother would notice the whole packet disappearing and pull them into line, he said.

Franks and Read headed home to Christchurch yesterday, while Smith will stay in Dunedin until the All Blacks reassemble in Auckland on Monday.

-craig.borley@odt.co.nz

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