School's last laugh over Conrad Smith fake

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 04/07/2014

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A school that was conned by a fake Facebook page claiming to be of All Black Conrad Smith has had the last laugh.

Facebook removed the fake profile yesterday after The Dominion Post reported the person behind it had stolen the 77-test All Black’s identity, much to the real Smith’s dismay.

Teachers and students at Hauraki Plains College in north Waikato were equally unimpressed after they received emails from the Smith impostor on Saturday, saying he would visit the school and present deputy principal Stephanie Harford with a signed photo.

Hopes were raised and a special school assembly was hastily arranged, until one of the students looked at the page and told staff it was probably fake.

‘‘We were all gutted,’’ Harford said yesterday. ‘‘We all went from being on a high to it all falling flat.’’

But there was a happy ending of sorts when the real Smith heard about what happened and sent Harford a signed Hurricanes jersey.

The school pressed ahead with its assembly plans, getting a drama student to put on a Conrad Smith mask and present the jersey to Harford in a box with the words ‘‘Steph, will you marry me?’’ on it.

‘‘It was an awesome way to end the school term and for everyone to have a laugh at my expense,’’ Harford said yesterday.

She was a big fan of Smith because of his down-to-earth personality. ‘‘He’s well qualified, both on and off the field, and he’s just a great role model for the country, as well as our kids.’’

The way he stepped in to save the day affirmed everything she thought about him, she said.

The school’s information hub administrator, Amanda Fitzpatrick, who exchanged emails with the Smith impostor, admitted she ended up with egg on her face.

‘‘To be cheated like that was very cruel,’’ she said. ‘‘We’ve got 750 kids here and we all got excited for each other when we thought Conrad was coming, so it was a dirty thing to do.’’

She praised Smith for signing a jersey with his broken thumb, and Facebook for being so quick to remove the fake profile.

Facebook spokeswoman Antonia Christie said  operating under a false identity violated the policies everyone agreed to when they signed up.

‘‘We encourage people to report anyone they think is operating under a false identity, either through the report links we provide on the site or through the contact forms in our [online] help centre.’’

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Smith told The Dominion Post he did not have any social media accounts.

- The Dominion Post

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