Nelson was as much the winner as our celebrated All Blacks when they beat the Los Pumas 46-24 last Saturday night at Trafalgar Park.
We proved as a community that we are capable of hosting New Zealand’s national sport at the international level. The event was inspiring for Nelson rugby, fun for families and good for business. We projected Nelson onto the national and international stage with class and we boosted our pride and confidence in ourselves.
The seeds of the success date back many years. We were bold in putting our hand up to host games in Rugby World Cup 2011 and proved our capability. Our rugby credentials have grown with the remarkable rise of our Tasman Mako. We are indebted to the visionaries from Tasman Rugby, Nelson City Council and our Nelson Regional Development Agency who in February last year, backed by commercial sponsors, put the bid in to host this Argentina/All Blacks game.
A vision can go awfully wrong without successful execution. Those responsible for preparing the grounds and stands should take a bow. The pre-game involvement of the All Blacks in the community was inspirational. The fan trail embraced by so many businesses created a city-wide festive spirit. A big thanks to the retailers for their shop displays, the 22,404 who dug deep and bought tickets and the 200 volunteer ushers who helped make it all happen.
I enjoyed the game from the southern stand with my son and like so many families, loved the atmosphere. My favourite moment on field was when Mako Shannon Frizell scored, but the best overall was when Sky commentator Tony Johnson said it was the best hosted All Black game since 2011. Go Nelson!
I congratulate the NZ Rugby Union for giving us this opportunity. To keep the All Blacks strong, the union must continue to nurture rugby in the regions.
This event proved the worth of Trafalgar Park. We are so fortunate to have this large capacity sports facility right in the heart of our city. I remember the groans when we spent $8m of rate payers and tax payer funds to upgrade it for the Rugby World Cup with the west stand, new gates and toilet facilities. We need to finish the job and replace the tired and outdated east stand.
We also need to further capitalise on our unique heritage of the birthplace of the New Zealand rugby. We need to be preparing now for the 150th celebration in 2020 of that momentous game first played between Nelson College and Nelson Club at the Botanics on 14 May 1870.
Rugby is on a roll in Nelson. Let’s keep the momentum up by getting behind the mighty Mako. I look forward to seeing you at Trafalgar Park this Friday as we take on our old foes Taranaki. Fins up!