Whenever he’s strolling the streets of Nelson, or any other New Zealand city, Kenn Butler is sure to give passersby a ‘fins up.’
Though, more often than not he’s met with looks of ‘who is this crazy old man?’, it doesn’t stop him showcasing the immense pride he has for his beloved Mako.
Since the Tasman Mako’s inception in 2006, Kenn has religiously followed the team around country. Rugby in the region has come a long way since Kenn moved here 21 years ago when the side was just called Nelson Bays. Shortly after arriving, Kenn went to watch the then division two team.
“We were beaten by a Canterbury country team 48-3, I thought ‘this is a nightmare.”
After amalgamation with Marlborough and the birth of the Mako, Kenn has been witness to all the heartbreak and heroics. From championship titles to last place finishes, Kenn’s support has never wavered. He recalls a number of highlights during the 13-year journey.
“Auckland three years ago, David Havili had a penalty into the wind in the driving rain and all the Auckland supporters were yelling, ‘w*****, w*****! It will never get there’.”
Havili nailed the penalty to the shock of the Auckland fans.
“So, I just took a bow on his behalf, it was a fantastic win that day.”
He says getting beaten by Canterbury again last year was a hard pill to swallow.
“We just didn’t turn up.”
Kenn has watched his side play at almost every major rugby ground in New Zealand.
“Mrs Butler gets a bit annoyed because we have to be there an hour before kickoff to soak up the atmosphere.”
His loyalty has been rewarded in recent times as the Mako have built themselves into a provincial powerhouse. However, a premiership title still eludes them.
Kenn, of course, had no hesitation heading over the hill for the Mako’s semi-final win against Auckland.
“It was a splendid result.”
He now prepares for what is the biggest game in the franchise’s history and is confident they can get the job done.
“Clearly there’s a morale in the team, they just gel.”
He says the Fainganu’uku brothers, prop Tim Perry and the ageless Wyatt Crockett have all impressed this season.
But one player stands out as his firm favourite, Ethan Blackadder.
“I think we should vote him for mayor when he retires.”