Arise Ambassador Gatland: Hamilton honours favourite son
He's the man credited with putting the fire back into the belly of the Welsh dragon and now Warren Gatland has been awarded one of his home city's rarest honours.
He has been awarded the honorary title of Ambassador of Hamilton and will receive an inscribed medallion at a special city council meeting on July 31.
The honorary title was first awarded last year to Anglican Archbishop Sir David Moxon and recognises individuals representing the interests of Hamilton nationally or overseas.
Gatland, who was made an OBE in the Queen's Birthday British Honours list in June, said he was surprised and honoured by the latest accolade.
"It's probably the first time I've been recognised in New Zealand," Gatland told the Waikato Times.
"The OBE was special, getting the chance to go to the palace and get that presented by the Queen. I've had some great experiences overseas but your heart is always back home. I often used to joke that if they cut me open I'd bleed red, yellow and black."
Gatland was born and educated in Hamilton and completed his teacher training at Waikato University.
He later played a record 140 games at hooker for Waikato and was selected as an All Black in 1988.
Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker said Gatland was a passionate advocate for Hamilton and maintained close ties with the city.
"Warren Gatland is a household name in Hamilton and New Zealand and I know residents will be delighted to hear he is an official ambassador of our city," Hardaker said.
Gatland said he was proud of his Hamilton and Waikato roots and always kept an eye on events and happenings in the city.
Although based in the northern hemisphere, he returned to Hamilton at least three times a year and spent about 15 weeks in New Zealand.
"I follow Waikato rugby and the Chiefs and, considering my son went to Hamilton Boys' High School and I'm an old boy, I follow how they do too.
"Sometimes the city gets a little bit of criticism but visitors come here and they go down the river and they just say ‘man it's a beautiful city and it's so central and handy to everything."
Gatland said Hamilton and the wider Waikato continued to be an excellent breeding ground for sportspeople.