03 June 2005
A small rural Manawatu rugby team is packing its boots just in case the All Blacks need some assistance at the Probables vs Possibles match in Napier today (3rd June).
Thanks to MasterCard, the Halcombe 4ths – the sole team in the Halcombe (pop.400) rugby club -is travelling to Napier to watch some of the game's leading exponents battle it out for a place in the All Blacks squad.
Team captain Jeremy Pickford nominated the team in a Radio Sport competition to find the most deserving players to attend the match because he thought they fitted the picture as underdogs who never give up.
"We generally lose our games, one year we lost every single game. We've had a few 50-plus whippings, our biggest defeat was against the Feilding Yellows with 83-0," he said.
"But we've never defaulted a game in the club's history and the local community is behind us all the way. The Halcombe pub's pretty empty when we play a home game," he said.
Bob Whiddon, Senior Vice President and Country Manager, New Zealand , MasterCard International , says he is thrilled that the Halcombe 4ths have won this priceless experience. "It's a great opportunity for some team building and they might even pick up a few tips to improve their performance.
"As the official sponsor of the All Blacks, MasterCard already supports New Zealand rugby in a big way but this competition has meant we can give something back to provincial New Zealand rugby," he said.
The prize includes 15 tickets to Friday night's game, all accommodation and transport to and from Napier.
The Halcombe 4ths' commitment is uncontested. They even declined the offer of a second night away in Napier as they had to get back to play rugby in Palmerston North on Saturday.Jeremy Pickford says the team –whose players range in age from 17 to 47 - is rapt about winning. "Obviously it's very exciting to go along to a trial match. Only one guy in the team has ever been to an All Blacks game before. We'll take our boots so we can step in if any of them get injured." he said.