Visiting teams welcomed with powhiri on tarmac
Cricketing minnows they may be, but the Papua New Guinea and Kenyan national teams got first-class treatment when they arrived in New Plymouth.
The two teams, which play each other today at Pukekura Park, arrived on the same flight from Wellington yesterday and received a stirring welcome by Taranaki Tutu Kahika kapa haka group at the New Plymouth airport.
"We've only ever seen that on TV before. So that's pretty special," PNG captain Chris Amini said of the powhiri performed right on the airport tarmac.
His team responded to the welcome with a song of their own and continued unfazed even as the Dash 8 aircraft they arrived on restarted its ear-piercing engines.
The level of spirit is something Amini is certain will carry on through to their matches.
"We are feeling confident. We are here to win the tournament. That is our attitude. We are not here to make up numbers. We are here to win," he said.
They face an uphill battle even if the competition is against cricket's second-tier teams Kenya, Uganda and the Netherlands.
Airport manager Kevin Hill, who came in especially to facilitate the powhiri, said it wasn't standard practice to have the teams welcomed straight out of the plane.
"But when it works, it works, and there is no room in the terminal anyway," he said as dozens of people peered through the windows, wondering what all the fuss was about.
New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd and Taranaki Cricket boss Neil Sulzberger also had a part in the welcoming party.
Mr Judd raised the flag for New Plymouth's Coastal Walkway, recommending players take a stroll there, while Mr Sulzberger did his best to say "hello" in each team's respective national language.
Perhaps fortuitously, he apologised in advance if he mangled the pronunciation.
PNG will next play Uganda on Thursday and then the Netherlands on Sunday.
All games are free to enter and start at 10.30am.
If it is wet, games will be played the next day.
Taranaki Daily News