“A great success.” That’s how police staff are describing the first weekend of the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup.
The tournament opened at Auckland’s Eden Park on Saturday, 8 October, with three exciting back-to-back matches.
Eden Park sold out for the tournament’s opening games with a record-breaking 34,235 people turning up on Saturday - the largest crowd for a women’s rugby game and for women’s sport in New Zealand.
Back row, from left: Constables Hannah Green and Ryan Bush, Sergeant Laurent Schwarzenberger, Constable Eddie Aufai and in the front row Constable Adam Knock were proud to be part of the opening day of the RWC.
Despite the large numbers, the crowds were on their best behaviour. They enjoyed the kids zones, live entertainment, poi-making and delicious kai with enthusiasm.
“It was a family-friendly affair”, says Rachel Dolheguy, Operation Commander for the games at Eden Park.
The opening day also included a flyover from the New Zealand Defence Force, a performance by Patea Māori Club, and a show-stopping production from global superstar Rita Ora.
But the cherry on top was the Black Ferns, who put on a spectacular performance in the last game of the day to beat trans-Tasman rivals Australia, 41-17.
Constables Hannah Green and Eddie Aufai look out over the history-making crowd at Eden Park.
Rachel is a former Black Fern, who was also part of the World Cup winning team at the 2006 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Edmonton, Canada.
She says her “heart was full to see those phenomenal athletes be recognised and supported, as they well deserve".
“The Black Ferns out there on Saturday represented the history of the game and the many amazing women who have gone before them in that black jersey who are the legacy ,and who played even against adversity and a lack of recognition.
“To now be able to celebrate women’s rugby in the first Women’s Rugby World Cup held in the Southern hemisphere in this manner is just special to be a part of.”
Like Rachel, all attending police staff were proud to be part of the celebrations, which carried over the next day in Whangārei for three more action-packed games.
Whangārei Kaipara Acting Area Commander Christian Stainton says there was an excellent atmosphere at the game with plenty of families enjoying the world-class rugby action at Northland Events Centre on Sunday.
Staff at the game walked the grounds and engaged with the crowd.
One man was trespassed from the venue with little fuss thanks to the low-key approach taken by staff.
“Overall the crowd was awesome," says Christian. "I have had heaps of comments filter back to me saying how our staff were approachable and having a laugh.”
Outside the venue, the Road Policing team did a really good job and ensured they had a presence around the wider venue.
Some Northland staff swapped their policing roles to volunteer during the tournament.
Physical Education Officer Kelly McCallum (pictured above, middle) was torn while watching the game between world number three side Canada and Japan who are ranked 13.
Kelly, who has volunteered as a team liaison officer at the Whangārei fixtures, played in the 2002 World Cup and captained Canada to fourth place at the 2006 Women’s Rugby World Cup on home soil.
She then became a coaching advisor to the Japanese national side in both Sevens and fifteens.
“There were a couple of players I used to coach who were playing in the Japan team and my best mate coaches Japan," she says. "There were kids of people I used to play with in the Canadian team so I knew a few of them in that team."
On the day, Canada proved too strong for Japan running out 41-5 winners in their opening Pool B clash, but Kelly says she was impressed by all the players' skills.
“It’s great to see how far women’s rugby has come and the skills level is so impressive. It fills my cup to see women’s sport being played before a sold-out crowd at Eden Park.”
Maungaturoto officer llew Smart (pictured above) is a regular sight during the ruby season as an experienced referee, but on Sunday he was in charge of coordinating the head injury assessments. He is involved as an official at the three other Northland games.
Whangārei Sergeant Charmaine Smith, part of the 2017 World Cup winning Black Ferns squad, was part of the Spark Sport commentary team for Sunday's games.
And there were plenty more Northland staff volunteering in various roles at the venue.
During the tournament a total of 26 matches will be played across 10 match days at Auckland’s Eden Park, Waitākere Stadium and Whangārei’s Northland Events Centre.