Here's a real Mooloo man from way back
Among the throng of excited fans and cowbells ringing out at Waikato Stadium tonight will be the man who brought the term "Mooloo" to life.
Arnel Ormsby, 86, was part of the original life-size Mooloo mascot that first walked on to Hamilton's Rugby Park in 1953, as Bay of Plenty arrived to challenge for the Ranfurly Shield.
Bay of Plenty towed their own mascot into town on a trailer - a man behind bars known as Hori BOP - but Waikato supporters met the challenge as Mooloo the cow strutted on to Rugby Park with her spray-painted wire and paper mache head, attached to a sacking body.
The packed park - led by Mooloo - encouraged the home side to a sterling victory and packed the Bay of Plenty team off home with their tails between their legs and their mascot in a coffin.
"That's a true story," Mr Ormsby quips. "I made up a coffin and placed a large shin bone on top with a sign saying ‘the late Hori BOP at rest 11-7-53'."
"Supporters had a hell of a lot of fun back then, what with parades and streamers and excitement. The shield meant so much to all of us, but it's not like that anymore."
So Mr Ormsby has put a challenge out to both the Waikato Rugby Union and supporters to reconnect with the mystique and prestige of holding and hosting provincial rugby's holy grail.
"I'd love to see those big parades back. It's so hard to win the shield," Mr Ormbsy said.
"We have to support the team when they do and do our bit to help them keep it by getting behind them as much as we can."
Earlier this week Mr Ormsby donned his purpose-made red, black and yellow suit jacket, tailored for him more than half a century ago by Frankton suit-maker Anthony Squires International, and walked the length of Victoria St.
Along the way he passed shop windows that he said would have been crammed with Waikato colours "back in the day" when everyone got behind their team.
"I will never forget listening to the radio in my garage back in 1951 when Waikato took the shield off North Auckland in Whangarei.
"The whole way back from Whangarei we got updates on the radio about where the team was - ‘making their way through the North Shore' - then Auckland, Papakura and down to Ngaruawahia. On the radio the supporters were told to congregate at the Embassy Theatre and we were all there when the team and the Shield arrived on stage about 11pm. It was magic."
Just one week later the team lost the Shield to Auckland. Then, by chance, Waikato came up against their Shield-holding neighbours a fortnight later in what would be the final challenge of the season.
"Well you can just imagine what happened," Mr Ormsby said.
"Everyone convoyed up to Auckland and paraded up Queen St. The Aucklanders had blue and white streamers covering their gates and fences but we were equal to the task and those bells were ringing."
The noise was deafening as Waikato regained the Shield in front of more than 40,000 people and took it home to Hamilton.
That summer Mr Ormsby, a barber by trade who cut the hair of many Waikato players, got together with other supporters to create Mooloo.
"The term Mooloo had already been created along with the image of a cow that children used to wave around on sticks at matches, but we wanted to bring her to life."
Mooloo was a staple at all Waikato matches through the 50s and 60s including clashes with the Springboks and British Lions. Her head even travelled to Canterbury by train in 1954 for an epic Shield clash Waikato drew 6-all.
"I know it's different these days with television and night games - but imagine if we could get back to games at 2.30pm, to get the community right behind the team and remember what it truly means to hold that shield," he said.