11 March 2011
Thursday night 10 March was a training session with a difference at Perth-Bayswater's home ground of Pat O'Hara Reserve, Morley.
As well as the Perth-Bayswater teams working hard at their pre-season training under lights, for once first grade gave away pride of place on the main pitch to another team -- the Auckland Blues.
In Perth for their match against the Western Force in East Perth on Saturday night, the Blues went through their paces in front of a throng as big as some home games. There was a noticeable difference to seeing the professionals perform up close and in person than from the safe distance of a TV screen. The pace was faster, the passes sharper and harder, the cutting edge was well honed and impressive. These boys meant business, and in a different league to what we're used to.
After training, a mob of eager kids (and some bigger "kids" as well) descended on the Auckland team as they made their way to the changing rooms. It was encouraging to see that some of the bigger names more familiar in the All Black strip were willing to stop and sign autographs, have photos taken and engage with their star-struck young fans with good humour and patience.
Great to have the Blues down at Perth-Bayswater and some of their admirers may be wrestling with mixed loyalties come game time on Saturday night.