Roaring with the real fans
Somewhere in the middle of the all-consuming Rugby World Cup there was another competition taking place - NZ's own National Provincial Rugby comp. It was a strange year for the ITM Championship (where the Lions found themselves this year) because the RWC forced a real truncation of the programme and so we saw mid-week matches and a shorter season.
Again it was a real pleasure for Cohen and I to work with the Wellington rugby crew, Janine and Mel at Launch and Dom, Craig and the big screen team to bring the entertainment around the match to the fans.
As the year has gone on we've gone from an international competition in the Cricket World Cup to Super Rugby and finally to Provincial rugby but even though the global coverage, money involved and, to some extent the crowds have decreased at each step some things haven't changed - in fact they may have changed inversely!
Certainly the quality of the games we saw during the Lions season was pretty good. Although I felt like I was jinxing the team with such a terrible home record we still got to see some great rugby and some breakthrough players like Vaea Fifita.
And there were some amazingly loyal fans. Take these two to my left: Naylan and Sean who, with their folks came to almost every game I was at - sitting in the front row, even in the rain. Apparently this lot even followed their team north to Napier for the heartbreakingly narrow finals loss. That's real passion and fan loyalty right there and its always great to interact with these sorts of folk and to enhance their experience of the game. I was stoked to get these guys and their family down to sit in a pitch-side dugout as part of a competition we ran on the big screen in the Semi-Final. But there were any number of other fans with similar loyalty that could have been part of it.
I also got to do some pretty cool things during the season - including presenting the Tuiversity Challenge Cup to Massey University, awarding a "bearded lady" $3000 as part of the "Show Us Your Mane" promo, helping push Ardie Savea's Breast Cancer Awareness Jersey (and accidentally interviewing his and Julian's mum), commentating on Rippa Rugby games as well as interviewing heaps of great fans. It's been another good season of sports and I can't wait to get stuck into the next tournament when we pop up for the 2016 Sevens.