7 Jul 2015

Dunedin awash in blue and gold

3:42 pm on 7 July 2015

About 10,000 fans packed into central Dunedin today to cheer home the Highlanders after the weekend's win.

Wayne Bridgman, 61, waits for the Highlanders in the Octagon.

Wayne Bridgman, 61, was among the crowd at today's parade for the Highlanders in central Dunedin. Photo: RNZ / Daryl Baser

The southern rugby franchise won the Super Rugby competition for the first time on Saturday, beating the Hurricanes 21 to 14 before a crowd of 40,000 in Wellington's Westpac Stadium.

Today, a sea of blue and gold lined Dunedin's George Street as a convoy of utes carried the triumphant team through a crowd of fans to the Octagon.

The team was welcomed by Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull to the Octagon, which was decorated in the team's colours - including a blue scarf around the statue of Robbie Burns.

The mood around the crowd varied from pure adulation, as team members greeted them, to relief that the team had finally won the tournament.

Jason Young, and Ivy (18months) in a shirt home-made by dad.

Jason Young and 18-month-old Ivy were also among the crowd today. Photo: RNZ / Darryl Baser

Dunedin man Jason Young and his 18-month-old daughter Ivy, who were among those in the crowd, have some history with Highlanders winger Patrick Osborne, after Mr Young won a dinner with the team in a competition over a year ago.

"It was amazing that he spotted us in the crowd today," Mr Young said. "We last saw him at Pak'n Save about six months ago. He jumped off the truck and came over saying, 'There's my little fighter'."

Ivy, who was born at 29 weeks, was on oxygen when she first met the famous All Black winger.

"He held her in his massive arms throughout the dinner to the point where his teammates were teasing him, saying he should hand her over."

In preparation for today, Mr Young was awake until 4.30am on Saturday hand-painting the shirt his daughter wore today.

An old school Highlanders' fan with an old school T-shirt.

A Highlanders fan at today's welcome event for the team. Photo: RNZ / Darryl Baser

Highlanders assistant coach Tony Brown said the reception they received from their fans was something special.

"It's just awesome support. It's blown all the players away, and also the coaches. I just didn't think that we'd get this big a reception - it's been outstanding."

He said the team would be enjoying the next few days as it celebrated its win.

Olivia Alice Prasad, one of the youngest fans there at just one week and three days old, attended in the arms of her sister, 11-year-old Shontel Pokipoki.

Wayne Bridgman, 61, who described himself as a "loyal Otago fan", was among older fans in the crowd. He admitted he was as excited as a schoolboy as he waited for the Highlanders in the Octagon.

Sisters Olivia Alice Prasad (one week, three days) and Shontel Pokipoki, 11, also attended today's event.

Sisters Olivia Alice Prasad (one week, three days) and Shontel Pokipoki, 11, also attended today's event. Photo: RNZ / Daryl Baser

Another fan, Tim Johnston, agreed it was a special atmosphere today.

"Excitement, all the boys - most of them have come past. It's a beautiful sight. Everyone's happy. Kids are excited, they're going wild and flags are everywhere."

Dunedin City Council Events coordinater Maralyn Anderson said she was very pleased with how the day turned out. "It's been a fabulous day."

Stephen Hohaia with Wyatt,(9) and David, (3).

Stephen Hohaia with Wyatt,(9) and David, (3). Photo: RNZ / Darryl Baser

Jalen, (8), (at rear) Gemma(7), Dylan(11, seated) Sienna (7) are among the hundreds of supporters already in the Octagon.

Fans at the Octagon: Jalen (8 - at rear), Gemma (7), Sienna (7) and Dylan (11 - at front) Photo: RNZ / Darryl Baser

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