WHEN St Kilda played the Brisbane Lions in Wellington on Anzac Day, there were plenty of Kiwis cheering the Saints on in the crowd.
One of these adopted fans was Conrad Smith, the veteran All Black and Hurricanes centre who was a pivotal player in New Zealand’s 2011 Rugby World Cup triumph.
So when the Hurricanes decided to stay in Australia following their game against the Waratahs last Saturday and ahead of Friday’s clash with the Melbourne Rebels, St Kilda extended an invitation for the club to utilise the elite training facilities Linen House Centre has to offer, and maybe have a kick of the Sherrin too.
“The boys have been very impressed [with the facilities] and a little bit jealous to be honest,” Smith told SAINTS.com.au on Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s a lot better than anything we have back home. We are already taking photos and sending them back to our CEO at home, hoping we can get something similar.
“It makes a big difference if you can have a facility like this where it’s all in one and you can spend your whole day.”
The relationship between the two clubs has further solidified the Saints connection with Wellington, following an historic Anzac Day match against Sydney last year which broke the barrier for staging AFL matches for points overseas.
“It’s funny the rise of Aussie Rules. It’s starting to get a lot more recognition back in New Zealand and obviously with St Kilda playing a home game in Wellington, it’s starting to get a bit of support,” Smith said.
“I know a few of us were at the game. So you (St Kilda Football Club) are starting to build a bit of support in the capital back home… I’ve managed to watch a few games over the past few years and I love it live.”
The Hurricanes have a 50/50 winning record this campaign and sit third in the New Zealand conference. After their loss last weekend, their AAMI Park encounter with the Melbourne Rebels this Friday looms large in the context of their season.
“We have a bit of revenge for last time I think,” he said.
“That was three years ago now. We got up to a healthy lead and then watched it whittle away and they won in the end. It was tough to take but they are a side that is playing really well now.
“It will be a tough battle.”