Fans ecstatic after convincing Chiefs victory
Thousands of rapturous Chiefs fans are expected to pack Hamilton's main street for a parade today as the city celebrates its Super Rugby champions.
And after watching the home-side devour the Sharks in front of a sellout crowd at Waikato Stadium, today's parade might also be the last chance for fans to glimpse departing players such as Sonny Bill Williams.
The occasion will not be lost on Williams who told the Waikato Times his post-try leap into the crowd was a "thank you" to the fans.
"That just showed my gratitude for the fans that have really embraced me in Hamilton," he said.
Today's parade will start at 12.30pm and travel along Victoria St, starting at Knox St and finishing at Garden Place.
Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker said an official presentation would follow at Garden Place to mark the Chiefs' stellar season.
"It's really an opportunity to acknowledge the great things the Chiefs have done for the city and the region."
Ms Hardaker said the Chiefs' win, together with the success of the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic and the performances of the Waikato-based Olympians, showed the Waikato was a great place to live.
"We're winners here and all this sporting success adds to this feeling. The success of our region is absolutely phenomenal and it just demonstrates that this is an exceptional place."
Speaking from London, Waipa Mayor Alan Livingston told the Times a street parade was also being planned to celebrate the region's Waikato-based Olympians after the games.
Mr Livingston, who is visiting his son Andrew in London, said the Chiefs' win was big news.
"I know a lot of people were getting updates on the score throughout the match. It's an outstanding win for the Chiefs and it's a fantastic double for the Waikato and Bay of Plenty with the Magic also winning."
Mr Livingston said the region's sporting success would inspire young Waikato sportspeople to set high goals.
"I'm just so proud and humble to be a Cambridge, Waikato and New Zealand person seeing these athletes perform."
Today's celebrations follow a bumper weekend for Hamilton bars, with rugby fans pouring into the city on Saturday.
Phoenix Group director Darrel Hadley said despite fan-zone issues last week, the night was a great success for bars such as House on Hood and CBD.
House on Hood general manager Andrew Jones said by midnight the bar had poured "thousands of litres" of beer.
John Lawrenson, of the Lawrenson Group, which owns a string of city bars, said Saturday was one of the busiest nights on record.
"The city was on show at the weekend and I think it really delivered. The game itself was great, obviously, and everyone afterwards was just so happy and positive. Had the Chiefs lost, no doubt it would have been different, but it wasn't the case. I'd be very surprised if you could find anybody with anything to complain about."
Mr Lawrenson said about 300 people turned up to watch the game on a big screen at the Garden Place fanzone.
Acting Hamilton city area commander Inspector John Kelly said police were pleased with fan behaviour at the stadium, with only a few people ejected from the ground.
Police Sergeant Geoff Blow said police made 39 arrests in the city between 10pm Saturday and 5am, compared to about 30 on a typical Saturday night.
"There were a lot of people in town and the mood was very good. Most people embraced the win and partied in the right mood."
The majority of arrests were for breaches of the liquor ban.
CHIEFS VICTORY PARADE
■ Super Rugby champions the Chiefs will have a victory parade through central Hamilton today, from 12.30pm.
■ The parade will start at Knox St and travel down Victoria St to Garden Place.
■ Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker said the parade was an opportunity for the city and region to celebrate the Chiefs.