Hundreds of people were at Auckland Airport this evening to welcome the rugby league World Cup, along with members of the Kiwis team who won it last night.
Team members Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei and Evarn Tuimavavae arrived home just after 6pm, along with manager Gordon Gibbons and several support staff.
For the first time in Kiwis history the Rugby League World Cup was with them.
Vatuvei and Ropati received a loud and enthusiastic welcome as they strode into the arrivals hall holding the trophy aloft.
About 15 people performed a haka, while the rest of the 300-strong crowd cheered and gave a “Kiwi” chant.
Vatuvei said he was overwhelmed by the reception.
“I’m pretty shocked that so many came and supported us,” he said.
“It’s just unlucky that the other boys couldn’t come and receive too.”
Prop Sam Rapira arrived earlier today, while the other Auckland-based players stayed in Australia for a short holiday.
The players based in Australia returned to their homes.
All team members are set to begin pre-season training for their clubs shortly.
The Kiwis were at long odds to beat the Kangaroos but Ropati said the team were confident.
“Throughout the week we spoke about self-belief and that it was our one and only chance to make history.
“We came out hard and at the end of the day we just felt like we wanted it more than them.”