Ruby Tui hopes to attend as many legs of victory tour as possible, Black Ferns thank Hamilton fans

Awhina Tangen-Wainohu and Ariana Bayler in the background with, from left to right, Black Ferns team-mates Renee Holmes, Kennedy Simon and Tanya Kalounivale, as well as Marlo Yeates, 1.

MARK TAYLOR/Stuff

Awhina Tangen-Wainohu and Ariana Bayler in the background with, from left to right, Black Ferns team-mates Renee Holmes, Kennedy Simon and Tanya Kalounivale, as well as Marlo Yeates, 1.

Black Ferns star Ruby Tui is hoping to attend as many legs of their nationwide victory tour as possible after last month’s exhilarating Rugby World Cup win on home soil.

Its second day in Hamilton on Tuesday was low-key, but a few hundred people patiently lined up at the Hamilton Old Boys club, whose five Black Ferns were there for group photos with the trophy they call “Nancy”, along with selfies and warm thanks for fans who supported them like never before for the World Cup.

There were also autographs, some signed on children’s foreheads.

Co-captain Kennedy Simon, halfback Ariana Bayler, fullback Renee Holmes and props Awhina Tangen-Wainohu and Tanya Kalounivale attended the Hamilton leg which Tui was only there for briefly.

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She had to leave before it really started because of an engagement in Auckland.

“It’s crazy how much Ruby can give. She’ll do as much as she can,” Simon said.

The tour started in Ōmokoroa in Bay of Plenty on Monday. Tui was there, two days after she was at Greymouth’s Santa parade on the West Coast, where she grew up.

Ruby Tui walking past the Rugby World Cup trophy after the Black Ferns beat England 34-31 in last month's final.

KAI SCHWOERER/Stuff

Ruby Tui walking past the Rugby World Cup trophy after the Black Ferns beat England 34-31 in last month’s final.

It could be a stretch to make each leg of the tour because of her other commitments, but she is expected to try.

The tour heads to New Plymouth on Wednesday, Palmerston North on Thursday, Christchurch for events on Saturday and Monday, then Wellington for the team’s main public reception at parliament next Tuesday, before finishing in Auckland next Sunday after passing through Rūātoki, Whakatāne, Ōmāio and Gisborne.

Waikato players Simon, Bayler, Holmes, Tangen-Wainohu and Kalounivale spent most of the Hamilton event posing for photos and signing posters with young fans, many in Waikato colours, with others in crisp, new Black Ferns jerseys.

They are still on an emotionally high after beating England in last month’s sold-out final before 42,579 at Eden Park.

Pre-season officially began on Monday, ahead of Super Rugby Aupiki in February, but they remain committed to engaging with the public as much as possible after a World Cup triumph which captivated the nation.

Much of the audience throughout the tournament seemed new to rugby but created a phenomenal atmosphere for their matches in Auckland and Whangārei.

The Waikato-based Black Ferns met fans in Hamilton on Tuesday.

MARK TAYLOR/Stuff

The Waikato-based Black Ferns met fans in Hamilton on Tuesday.

Loose forward Simon said they were trying to ride the momentum of their World Cup success. It was the sixth global title for the Black Ferns after wins in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2017.

While it’s hoped their triumph can inspire a younger generation, older ones were drawn to their victory, too.

“Someone today, he said: ‘I’ve been watching rugby 40-odd years. That [final against England] was the best rugby match I’ve ever watched’. That’s incredible,” Simon said.

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A large crowd watches on in Auckland as the Black Ferns celebrate their historic win.

“We also heard about a club that was really struggling to get girls to play rugby. Now, they’ve got a girls’ team. Those are the kind of stories we really want to enhance and inspire.”

Waikato No 9 Bayler said winning the cup was the obvious highlight of their campaign, but they also paid tribute to the country’s support.

“It’s about giving back to fans and supporters,” Bayler said of their tour. “Without them, none of this is possible. Selling out Eden Park isn’t possible without them.”

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