The Crusaders' ''biggest fan'' welcomed the team back to Canterbury with ''cuddles'' following their Super Rugby loss.
The players, some walking wounded, returned to Christchurch Airport from Australia today.
The Waratahs won a drama-laden grand final 33-32 in Sydney last night with Bernard Foley kicking a 45-metre penalty in the final seconds.
Among a throng of loyal supporters at Christchurch Airport was Doreen Searle, 92, who holds a special place in her heart for Sam ''Sammy'' Whitelock.
The Papanui woman said she was ''heart-broken'' for the players.
''I have to give them a cuddle,'' she said.
''That is what I am here for.''
Searle frequently sends mail to the players and red and black booties whenever a Crusader's baby is born.
Team members have returned favours over the years, including a bottle of sherry Reuben Thorne gave her for her 90th birthday.
Searle pours a half glass each game to help calm her nerves.
- The Press