Eden Park is New Zealand's largest stadium, just down the road from our B+B, so it was only right and proper to ‘go and have a look’. I have loved the All Blacks for forty years and for about the last thirty have always said that when I die, I would like to come back as their bath sponge. Well after such a long time, I’m not only in the right country, I’m standing next to their stadium. What a WOW. I get to feel my first thigh.
Eden Park's rich sporting and social history, and its international profile, is unmatched by any other stadium in the country. Although used primarily for Rugby Union in winter and Cricket in summer, more recently it has hosted international Rugby League and NRL games as well as A-League Football. To accommodate these changes of code, the cricket pitch is removable.
In 2011 Eden Park hosted a number of pool games, two quarter-finals, both semi-finals and the final of Rugby World Cup 2011. In doing so it became the first stadium in the world to host two Rugby World Cup Finals, having held the inaugural final in 1987. The stadium has been selected as a venue for the 2015 Cricket World Cup, which will be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
The thigh in question belongs to none other than Michael Jones, who in 1987 scored the first try of the first Rugby world Cup, in his first game for the All Blacks.
I got Bear to pose with him too.
At the other end of the building proudly stands Dave Gallaher (1873-1917). He was the team captain in 1905, “The Originals”. All Blacks selector, Auckland player and selector and Ponsonby Rugby Club stalwart. Born in Ramelton, Ireland in 1873, Dave Gallaher came to New Zealand in 1878 where his family were one of the first settlers of Katikati in the Bay of Plenty. Moving to Auckland in 1893, he played for the Ponsonby Premiers from 1896, interrupted by service in the Boer War in 1901 and 1902.
Dave Gallaher was Ponsonby Rugby Club’s first All Black in 1903, Captain of the legendary 1905 All Black, “The Originals”, an Auckland player from 1896, sole Auckland selector from 1906 to 1916 and an All Black selector from 1907 to 1914. He co-authored “The Complete Rugby Footballer” in 1906.
Dave died of wounds suffered in the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917 and is buried in the British War Cemetery at Nine Elms in Poperinge, Belgium. Internationally renowned as the father of All Black Rugby, he was inducted into the International Rugby Board’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
Beyond Dave Gallaher at guarding Entry A is Tawhirimatea, Māori God of wind and weather, signifies the natural elements and their collective influence on the nature of sporting contests. Tawhirimatea holds the Tewhatewha, a weapon used by the commanding leader to direct warriors into battle formations. The Tewhatewha is used in a swirling motion to mimic the movement of wind and, as such, is an acknowledgement of Tawhirimatea.
Next, it was time to stare at the grass.
History: Eden Park has been in existence as a sports ground since 1900. It began its life as a swamp, but by 1914 the ground had been drained and turned into two ovals. Eden Park was exclusively a cricket ground in its early years, known variously as the Kingsland Cricket Ground and, after a merger with the Eden Cricket Club, as the Eden Cricket Ground. The name ‘Eden Park’ settled into general usage sometime around 1912, soon after it had been taken over by the Auckland Cricket Association (which was founded in 1883). Still to this day the home of Auckland Cricket, Eden Park has hosted many international Tests, One Day International and Twenty/20 cricket matches. Rugby first came to the park in 1913 when, after negotiations with the Auckland Cricket Association, Auckland Rugby was granted a 21-year lease to use the park for games during the winter season. The first test rugby game at Eden Park was held on the 27th of August 1921, when the Springboks beat the All Blacks 9 - 5 before a crowd of 40,000. The Auckland Rugby Football Union officially made Eden Park its home in 1925. In 1926 a Trust was set up that provided for a group of Trustees to manage Eden Park primarily for the benefit of Auckland Cricket and Auckland Rugby. The Trust still manages the Park today. The ground is not simply a venue for rugby and cricket matches – as well as the occasional soccer, league and hockey internationals, plus major track and field events like the 1950 British Empire Games, Eden Park has been the stage for British royalty, Russian gymnasts and the Dalai Lama. In 2013 the New Zealand Warriors announced they would be playing three home games at Eden Park in the 2014 NRL season.
Bear and our trusty little steed.....................
.............................wait patiently while a fan takes pictures of the stadium.
Here a very impressive chap stands watch.
Rongomatane, Māori God of peace, signifies completion in the psyche of man. In contrast to the traits of the Gods Tanemahuta, Tawhirimatea and Tumatauenga, Rongomatane represents the calmness, fairness and understanding of humanity. He stands with the wahaika at his front to ward off evil and holds a toki behind his back. The toki or adze is a customary symbol of peace between two parties. Although Eden Park is a realm of sporting confrontation, the presence of Rongomatane reminds us that contests fought in this arena must be undepinned by the values of respect, fairness and, ultimately, peace.
Redevelopment: The $256 million redevelopment that was completed in October 2010 provided a permanent capacity of 50,000 and the ability to add a further 10,000 temporary seats for the 2011 Rugby World Cup games. This is the largest of any New Zealand sports arena. There are no standing areas. Temporary seating in front of the North Stand and the West Stand (usually only used for international rugby matches) is required for the capacity to be reached. Due to sight-screens and the larger area required for cricket matches, cricket capacity is less.
Prior to the redevelopment, Eden Park had a crowd capacity of 42,000 for cricket, and 47,500 for rugby.
Bear stands with Tanemahuta, Māori God of the forests, bears the pou whenua – a toll traditionally used to mark tribal boundaries and engaged with equal distinction as a weapon should those boundaries be contested. Tanemahuta is also credited with the ascension to the highest heavens to retrieve the three baskets of knowledge that brought understanding and enlightenment to mankind.
Expansion: The redevelopment project included a new three-tier South stand which replaced the old South and West stands,with a capacity of 24,000, and a new three-tier East stand which replaced the Terraces. The number of covered seats increased from 23,000 to 38,000. The redeveloped Eden Park also features an internal concourse that allows people to circulate around the grounds inside the stadium and several world-class facilities, including food and beverage outlets, toilets and corporate areas, were incorporated. The open plan approach to the design and establishment of a community centre and green space, as well as the removal of the perimeter fence, all mean that the stadium has become more publicly accessible and a part of the neighbourhood.
There were public concerns about the height of the new structure and its shading effect on many nearby houses. Auckland City Council received 470 submissions towards Eden Park's resource consent application – over 300 of which were in favour of the redevelopment. On the 26th of January 2007, Eden Park received resource consent, but 91 conditions were imposed. The consent permitted the building of new stands in place of the terraces and south stand, but did not include consent for the NZ$ 385 million 'full option' which would have included covered seating.
All Heart. All Pride. All Blacks.
Back to where we began Tumatauenga, Māori God of war, stands above wielding a taiaha – a traditional combat staff employed in times of conflict, any arena where battle ensues is bestowed the name Te Marae Atea a Tumatauenga – the battle domain of Tumatauenga. In today’s context, Eden Park is such a place. A domain of battle where contemporary gladiators clash under the banner of sport with an intensity and ferocity reminiscent of that of the ancestors. As we drive away, I feel quite limp. In the words of Arnie – “she’ll be back.” We see Mount Eden on the hill.
ALL IN ALL QUITE SOMETHING