It's been over two years since I've had my four children together in the one place at the same time. A football match may seem a strange place for that to happen. But this was no ordinary footy game, this was a Rugby World Cup fixture. And despite the fact that my children said I looked like a Canadian logger's mother all rugged up against the wind, no logger's mother could have been happier.
That's my little grandson enjoying his first ever rugby game in the middle front.
The new stadium at Northland Event Centre was a sea of festive red. Not just festive in colour with the red and white flags of Canada and Tonga flying but festive in spirit. The official attendance was just over 17,000 which is a huge crowd in this part of the world and it seemed every single one of them was there to enjoy the game regardless of the outcome. The Tongans far outnumbered the Canadians in terms of flags and fans but the Canadians seemed to have the craziest costumes. As we walked in to the grounds with our Canadian flags and face paint we passed a mass of Tongans supporters who gave us a loud cheer. And the atmosphere was like that all around the grounds.
My four grand-daughters decked out to support their Canadian uncle.
The weather during the morning and early afternoon had been pretty lousy. Strong wind and nasty showers. Many, like me, had their red regalia hidden under warmer coats. The coats were needed as the wind didn't go away but just one very light shower passed over one end of the ground quickly. It was strange to see the rain go across the other end of the field and everyone around us was donning their raincoats in preparedness but the rain blew away. Too much hot air up our end perhaps?
A Tongan brass band entertain the crowd as the players from both sides warm up
(Tongans in the foreground)
And the outcome? In an entertaining game Canada got the first points, fell behind and came back to win. It seemed the majority of spectators were encouraging whoever was behind at the time. We shared the tarpaulin we had laid on the ground to keep our bums dry (and pull up over us if it rained, you have to plan ahead when you are in the cheap seats) with a group of girls who switched sides so many times, they didn't know who they were barracking for in the end. The Canadians were very happy with the result as in the last RWC (in 2007) their best result was a draw.
I enjoyed it all so much. It couldn't have been a better family outing. We had fun walking with the crowds to and from the games, the good natured banter. I was even impressed with the sight of red tail lights as far as the eye could see ahead of us on the way home, something I can't recall seeing before. (And I normally hate heavy traffic.)
A big thumbs up to the organisers. You did Northland proud.
Go the Wallabies.