NZ's first stop is tribute to quake victims

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2011, 12:00am

New Zealand began their bid to win the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Hong Kong Sevens on a soul-searching note when they attended the Australian International School's remembrance day for the recent earthquake victims just hours after arriving yesterday morning.

'We have been surprised by the feelings of sympathy shown by people all over the world and to see schoolchildren in Hong Kong supporting a fund-raising cause for the victims of Christchurch and Japan is really something,' said Ross Everiss, the manager of the New Zealand team.

The team, led by DJ Forbes, arrived at 6am yesterday. After a quick recovery session in the hotel pool, the players and team officials went to the Australian International School, where the consuls general of both the earthquake-affected countries had addressed the children.

'It was very touching to see that the children had raised money for the earthquake victims,' Forbes said. 'It's good to see that there are people who care. The recent tragedies have put everything into perspective.'

The school raised HK$78,000 to donate to Japan and New Zealand. Each student brought a HK$10 coin with which they spelt out the names of Christchurch and Japan.

'We originally had planned this day as a remembrance for the victims of the Christchurch tragedy but after what happened in Japan, we included them too,' said Alex Gibbs, the school's director of development.

'It was very nice of the New Zealand squad to take time off from their training schedule and turn up, especially after having just landed in Hong Kong.'

But it was soon back to business for the 12-man team, coach Gordon Tietjens putting them through their paces in an intense 90-minute session at So Kon Po.

New Zealand will be playing for the first time since the Christchurch earthquake on February 22, and Forbes said it would be hard not to be emotional, especially if the team were to reach Sunday's Cup final.

'Luckily none of the boys or their families come from Christchurch so we as a team were not directly affected. But everyone knew of someone who was affected. It is a sad time for the country and we hope we can lessen the mood of despair a bit by doing well here,' he said.

Forbes said he had recovered from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the Las Vegas tournament last month, when New Zealand were beaten 26-7 in the semi-finals by Fiji.

Eager to make up for lost time, Forbes will also be looking to add a second Cup championship medal to the one he won in 2008.

'This is my sixth time and in that time we have won only once. We haven't won it as often as we would have liked to and I hope that will be sorted out this weekend,' he said.

'As always, it is important to win the Hong Kong leg because of the extra points on offer.'

There will be one more reason: lifting the spirits of the people back home.