Members of the world-conquering Blackcaps cricket team visited Tauranga this week, showing off the distinctive Mace trophy they secured by beating India in the ICC World Test Championship last month.
Pāpāmoa-based bowler Neil Wagner and Ōmokoroa’s bowling coach Shane Jurgensen both attended as the trophy tour rolled through Tauranga Intermediate School, along with fellow team members BJ Watling and Mitchell Santner.
Upon returning from their impressive win in England, a stay in MIQ stopped the Blackcaps’ party in its tracks. But they are now on the road and sharing their win with the nation.
Wagner, speaking after taking in the sunrise at Moturiki (Leisure) Island, admits the response since leaving MIQ and celebrating the win with loved ones and the general public has been overwhelming.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” he says.
“It is starting to hit home a bit now after seeing the public response and what it meant to them.
“The response has been humbling to be fair. To see people falling in love with test cricket again and seeing what it has meant to them has been amazing.”
Some of the Bay of Plenty’s brightest sports stars played a pivotal role in the Blackcaps’ success. Captain Kane Williamson steered them to victory with an unbeaten 52 in the second innings, whilst Trent Boult took five wickets across both innings on England’s south coast.
Wagner also played a key role, taking three wickets, including the crucial scalp of Ajinkya Rahane - India’s top scorer in the first innings.
The South African-born Kiwi, who has called the Bay of Plenty home since 2018, is now hoping trips to local schools can inspire the next generation of Blackcaps and White Ferns to step up to the crease.
“It is definitely worth celebrating,” he says, “and hopefully we’re inspiring the next generation to want to play cricket and represent their country, which is pretty awesome.
“The whole part of it is trying to give back and show gratitude for the love we have received.
“I have been fortunate enough and lucky enough to do this as a job. But we were there, in those seats at school watching our players and aspiring to be them, so hopefully we do that for young kids as role models.”
After visiting Tauranga the Mace took in a trip to Hamilton before continuing its journey through New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill.