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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Joy and pain at Crusaders game

Joy and pain at Crusaders game

Last updated 12:30 05/03/2011
The pain of the Christchurch earthquake was dampened a little in Nelson last night as a red and black crowd urged the Crusaders to victory at Trafalgar Park.

Those in the sellout crowd of 11,000 had different reasons for coming.

Many were Nelsonians like David Johnson, "who just had to come" to show solidarity with Christchurch, and was grateful for the opportunity to watch a Crusaders game here.

Others had escaped the quake, and were watching their home team play at a "home" hundreds of kilometres away from AMI Stadium.

Teachers Barbara Martindale and Mary Chetty fled the ruined city last week for the quiet of Nelson.

"I think it was the deaths; that had a really big impact this time," Ms Chetty said.

As "huge" Crusaders fans, the enormity of what had happened to their city meant the excitement of being at the game was bittersweet. Ms Martindale said she "felt really guilty" for being at the game. She knew four people who had died in the February 22 quake, "and maybe more when the names come out".

While she felt guilty, she also felt "incredibly proud to be a Cantabrian".

Brother and sister Bridget and Chris Nolan, aged 11 and 13, were staying in Nelson.

Chris said their home had been damaged in the September quake, and was now condemned following the February disaster.

He said Crusaders players Sean Maitland, Sam Whitelock and Zac Guildford were neighbours who had helped to shovel liquefied sand and muck out of the driveway of the house they had been renting since September.

Nelson man Geoff Hoffman shifted to Christchurch two weeks before the quake struck. He said the premises of the Moorhouse Ave kitchen company he managed were damaged, but his house was fine and he planned to return to the Garden City.

Mr Hoffman said he was supposed to have watched last night's game from the First 15 Lounge at AMI Stadium. Instead, he was watching it from the front row of the embankment at Trafalgar Park.

Three Sydney men sporting blue amongst the sea of red and black were some of the few Waratahs fans in the crowd.

Simon Holey, his dad Phil and friend Alex Deeley bought tickets to the match in Christchurch before last week's earthquake damaged AMI Stadium. When the game was shifted to Nelson, they decided to come anyway.

"We wanted to come to support our team, but also to support the economy and the earthquake victims."

The Crusaders wore red and white – the colours of the West Coast union.

The team had arranged to play their first home game in those colours to commemorate the 29 people who lost their lives in the Pike River mining disaster.

An impeccably observed minute's silence at the beginning of the game, to remember the Pike River victims and the more than 163 people who lost their lives in the Christchurch quake, was chilling.

The reason for the game being played in Nelson was lost on no one old enough to comprehend what had happened in Christchurch.

"We are here because of a tragedy," someone in the crowd said. "And that's kind of weird."

Sales of red and black "Kia Kaha Christchurch" T-shirts raised $20,000, and buckets for the Red Cross appeal must have collected thousands more.

Pride in Canterbury swelled as the Crusaders horsemen thundered around the park.

With images of a devastated Christchurch fresh in their minds, the noisy crowd wanted one thing: a Crusaders victory. And they were not disappointed.

The 33-18 win was a result that Christchurch, the red and black crowd in Nelson, and New Zealand wanted and desperately needed.

The fans at last night's game were well behaved, police said.

Nelson Bays Area Commander Inspector Brian McGurk said two people were ejected from Trafalgar Park for drunkenness. One was later arrested as he tried to get back into the ground.

Mr McGurk said it was a busy night for police.

Three people were arrested for intoxication, and three people were arrested and charged with disorderly behaviour. One person was charged with assaulting police.

- The Nelson Mail


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