The first-ever All Blacks test in Nelson turned the city alight, with punters, publicans and politicians all singing the event’s praises.
And they say it proves that we can put on even more big events like it.
“The big question should now be … what next?” said Tasman Rugby chief executive Tony Lewis.
Thousands of people gathered in the city centre on Saturday as live music filled the streets and food stalls and bars kept the fans well fed and watered.
It was a great opening act to the main event –21,404 selling out Trafalgar Park.
And the players came to the party too – bringing home a 46-24 win against Argentina.
Tony Lewis said it was like having a dream come to life.
“But having [that dream] better than you could expect.”
He said it was magnificent to see the whole city embracing the idea.
“What it has shown is that if you put on the right event the people in Nelson will come to it and flock to it in their tens of thousands – the key is what the right event is.”
He said the city had established a valuable blue print for putting on big events in the city.
“It’s now working out how we can best position ourselves for the next one to benefit the city.”
Part of that was ensuring that Trafalgar Park was revamped to ensure that Nelson could host them.
“Right now the stands are being pulled down. ”
“If we are going to have these events we need to build something so we can aggressively chase them.”
Above all, Tony said Saturday’s match was a celebration.
And the publicans were celebrating, too.
Owner of the Cod & Lobster, Nick Widley, said the event was “brilliant” and it was even more busy than they expected.
“I reckon, the way it went, I see no reason why we can’t have more games like this. I think we proved ourselves as a town.
“Bring it on.”
The Rugby Championship match was the first game for the newly-renovated turf at Trafalgar Park, which was praised by the All Blacks coach Steve Hansen post-match as one of the best the team have played on.
“It’s been a pleasure to be here and we’ve really enjoyed it,” he told a press conference.
“The community has been fantastic, everywhere we’ve gone we’ve been well received.”
“New Zealand is one of the few places that takes their national team around the country, and it’s just a great reminder the All Blacks are the people’s team and we enjoy coming to places like this.”
Mayor Rachel Reese said she was immensely proud of how Nelson came together to put on this memorable event.
“This match was an amazing spectacle, excitement in Nelson had been growing all week as visitors poured into the city, and by game night the atmosphere at the ground was electric.”
She said Nelson showed once again that it can host these large international events, especially when all the community gets involved.
“Securing and delivering an All Blacks’ test match was the result of hard work and dedication from so many Nelsonians, and without this combined effort the match wouldn’t have been the success it was.”
That thanks also extended all the way to the supporters who flooded into the city.
Argentinians Pablo Daverio and Facundo Stella made the trip north from Timaru and Twizel respectively for the historic test.
“We heard of the game and made the seven-hour drive and here we are,” Pablo said.
“It is our first time in Nelson, we are really enjoying it.”
But there were plenty of All Black fans, too.
Local boy Cooper Batten said before the match that he had been looking forward to his first test match “for ages.”
The nine-year-old says he is a huge All Blacks fan who had his hopes met when his favourite player Kieran Read scored a try in the team’s win.
Injured All Black Sonny Bill Williams said that the team relished the time spent in Nelson.
“It’s beautiful down here, I’ve been lucky enough to spend a bit of time here with the Crusaders, it’s a beautiful spot in New Zealand and the boys are really enjoying it.”
So, as mayor Reese said: “They are welcome back anytime.”