Wigan Warriors fans in a league of their own
Wigan Warriors fans show their loyaltyJENNA LYNCH
John Shaw is the embodiment of the die-hard sports fan.
Even though there were two Warriors rugby league teams playing at Waikato Stadium last night, Mr Shaw recognises only one.
"There's only one Warriors, and they're from Wigan."
The tattoo across his chest reads "Ancient and Loyal" - the script comes straight from the Wigan crest. It's just one of six tattoos dedicated to the English side.
This tour marks his third trip Down Under to cheer on his team, Hamilton being just one stop on a worldwide journey to earn the "die hard" title.
Last night he was wearing a Wigan scarf, flag and jersey. How many Wigan shirts has he got? He's lost count.
"A wardrobe full." A man walks past and Mr Shaw is starstruck: "That's Graeme West." West is a Kiwi, but played for Wigan from 1982 to 1991 and later coached them. The statistics avalanche from Mr Shaw's mouth.
"He led us to cup victory. We didn't lose with him."
Shaw is loud, he's proud, he's born and bred Wigan.
"We'll out-shout the Kiwis, oh easy. I'll do it on me own," he boasted.
And shout they did. As the Wigan Warriors took to the field on a mild Waikato evening, the stand erupted. Despite having numbers on their side, the Kiwi fans only just matched the volume.
But their support was there, even if there were some divided loyalties.
Graeme Lee's hat was black and white, adorned with a Warriors logo, as were his shorts, but a Wigan shirt lay in between. Mr Lee, of Tauranga, described his look as "cross-dressing".
He and his wife Pam travel all over to support the Kiwi team. They're season ticket-holders and attend every home game. They're even heading to the Gold Coast to watch the boys.
But despite his immense support for the Warriors, Mr Lee was happy no matter what the final score was.
"The winner on the day is going to be rugby league."
- Waikato Times