Rugby players connect with fans

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 14/08/2014
rugby
CHARLOTTE CURD/FAIRFAX NZ
Taranaki rugby player, James Broadhurst holding Faasuka Etimani. Taranaki rugby players visited the sick children in the children's ward at the Taranaki Base Hospital.

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Malcolm Piripi-Pate, 5, was not shy when it came to telling members of the Taranaki rugby team they were cheating at the Thomas the Tank Engine card game.

Members of the side visited the children's ward at Taranaki Base Hospital yesterday and sat down for a game of cards with Malcolm - MJ to his new mates.

The little boy was a big rugby fan who was keen to play for the team, his mum said.

But while Malcolm was excited to see the players, the occasion may have been lost on two wee babies in the ward - though not on their families.

Hunter Pennington, whose grandfather is former TRU chief executive Neil Pennington, is only 6 weeks, but his photo with halfback Warwick Lahmert keeps him in touch with big brother Connor, 2, who has had his photo taken with Taranaki All Black Beauden Barrett.

Lahmert's experience with babies showed as he picked Hunter up - Lahmert has a 4-month-old son, Lakyn.

It was cool to visit the kids and put smiles on their faces, Lahmert said.

Lock James Broadhurst showed his sensitive side when he met 11-week-old Faasuka Etimani.

Then he found a rugby ball and collected signatures for Faasuka's brother Pueata, 5, who was at school.

Mum Laiga Etimani said Pueata would be "jealous and angry" when he found out the players had visited his sister.

"He loves rugby and always goes and watches the [Taranaki] games."

If she had known the players were visiting, Pueata may have "bunked off" school to meet his heroes, she said.

Broadhurst said the players always went out into the community the day before a game.

"The children's ward is a good place to come. It puts things in perspective."

Taranaki open their season against Counties-Manukau at Yarrow Stadium tonight.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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