It was sheer chance that a competition to find a youngster to help with the Anzac rugby league test coin toss turned up a worthy winner in Wiremu Te Wiata.
Nor-west News' parent company Suburban Newspapers ran a competition to find two youngsters for a special honour ahead of tomorrow night's Anzac rugby league test between the Kiwis and Kangaroos. Wiremu, 9, of Kaukapakapa, was one of those chosen by chance.
He will get a "tunnel tour" of Eden Park, meet the respective team captains Benji Marshall and Cameron Smith, and even get to toss the coin.
He did not have to do much. "It's the easiest competition he's ever had to do," mum Angela says.
"We just had to write his name, phone number and address and that was it. It was pretty easy."
But fate has a way of finding deserved winners.
Wiremu plays for the Barracudas team from the East Coast Bays club. Four of his Kaukapakapa School mates are in the team, and it is managed by his father Te Kani.
It is the first season his team can have real positions as well as scrummage and kick.
He has played since he was four, so is eligible for a special five-year pin at the end of this season.
But he would have truly earned that honour.
Two years ago Wiremu fractured his skull in a non-rugby league accident. It only put him out for a month.
Shortly afterwards he was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease. It meant another month on the sidelines.
Each time Wiremu came back.
He loves the game and loves his team. And he has had memorable times with them, such as when they played a curtainraiser for the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium.
Wiremu and family are not unaccustomed to mixing with sporting identities.
He has already met Shaun Johnson, who gave him a Warriors hat and poster.
Now he is ready to meet his other favourite player Marshall, and hopefully some more of the team.
"Maybe Shaun Johnson can introduce me to everybody," he says.
The Te Wiata family were also visited at their home by former Irish rugby union international Michael Quinn while he was in New Zealand to commentate at the Rugby World Cup.
It continues a long-running friendship that started when Angela met him on a plane when he was coming to New Zealand with the Irish team in 1976.
Tomorrow's Anzac test will be the first to be played in New Zealand since 1998.
On that occasion, the Kiwis beat the Kangaroos 22-16 at North Harbour Stadium. But they have not won the annual fixture since then.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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