A treat for fans but there's no scrum for tickets

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 October, 2010, 12:00am

The fans - the few who turned up - gave a resounding thumbs up as they rubbed shoulders with their All Blacks and Wallabies heroes at So Kon Po yesterday.

But if the Fan Day exercise was meant to sell tickets for the DHL Bledisloe Cup on Saturday, then it failed as only a handful were sold at the Hong Kong Stadium box office.

'I got an autograph from Dan Carter again. I also got it two years ago when the first Bledisloe Cup game was played here. He is my favourite,' gushed Chloe Palmer-Smith, 11, who, along with twin sister Sabrina was among the first to line up for a signature from the All Blacks flyhalf.

'This is a great idea,' said Justin McLaughlin, who brought along his daughter Asia, 6, and son Louis, 2, 'I'm from Melbourne and I prefer Aussie rules any day, but to get to meet players from the world's top two teams is super.'

Emma Kwok I-sheung, 23, who plays for City Sevens in the HK women's league, said: 'I love Ma'a Nonu. He is powerful and strong, and I like his hair [dreadlocks]. When I started playing rugby, I watched a lot of videos and most of them were the All Blacks, and that's why I'm a big fan of them.'

Fewer than 200 fans were lined up before the gates opened at 11am for the two-hour session where 20 Wallabies and 20 All Blacks - who had arrived only four hours earlier - mingled with the crowds, signing shirts and balls, as well as taking part in fun clinics.

By the end, nearly 800 fans were there, with mums and dads bringing youngsters after the mini-rugby sessions ended.

'This is why we decided to start Fan Day at 11am so as to allow children from mini rugby, which finishes at 10.30am, the chance to turn up,' said Hong Kong Rugby Football Union chairman Trevor Gregory, who was surprised at the poor turnout.

'What can we do, we can only put the water there, getting the horse to drink it is another matter. The kids are getting a high-quality experience.'

Viv Young, a Kiwi mum of two-year-old twins Scottie and Matthew, praised the HKRFU for providing the opportunity. 'Even back home it is hard to get this opportunity, especially one where we could have a good chat with the players,' she said after posing with her two sons for a picture with Carter.

The Australian and New Zealand unions co-operated with the Hong Kong organisers in arranging the Fan Day to boost ticket sales. However, staff at the box office across the road said only a trickle of people had bought tickets.

'Don't worry, if you want to buy 20 tickets at the gate on Saturday, you can do it,' one of the two women behind the counter said.

Gregory said nearly 24,000 tickets had been sold, leaving the union with more than 14,000 on its hands.

'Last time [2008] we had thousands of travelling fans, but because of next year's World Cup very few people are travelling,' Gregory said.

'While disappointed, I'm not surprised. Selling 23,000 to 25,000 tickets in Hong Kong just about accounts for the local demand.'