The Wellington changing room would have been a psychologist’s dream in the aftermath of the Air NZ Cup rugby final last night.
The pain of losing the match 6-7 to Canterbury was transformed by an injection of news that eight players — nearly a quarter of the 35-man All Blacks squad named today — would tour for their country.
That included two elated newcomers.
After their showers, fullback Cory Jane and winger Hosea Gear were both delivered the good news by manager Dean O’Shaughnessey, lifting a heavy atmosphere after Wellington’s bright season ended on an excruciating note at Westpac Stadium.
“After about 20 minutes in the rain watching Canterbury go up and receive the gold wasn’t doing the mood any favours,” Gear told NZPA.
“Once we got back in the changing room the heads were still down a little bit … until the All Blacks got announced. It was then that the boys were hitting the roof.”
It was the same story for Jane, who asked O’Shaughnessey to repeat his name to make sure.
“The boys were jumping up and down, it was good feeling,” he said.
“It was upsetting after the game to do so well over the year and then lose.
“But that quickly went when I found out I was in the All Blacks squad.”
Jane said his wife was screaming with excitement down the phone and he had felt like doing the same in response.
“I haven’t had a scream yet. I might have to go home soon and jump up and down somewhere. Quiet, where no one can see me.”
Both players professed to surprise at their selection, even though the drums had been beating loudly for several weeks courtesy of their attacking form in a Wellington side who had dominated the competition up until last night.
“I was always hoping. You hear people saying you’ve played well enough to get in but they (selectors) pick the team and I’m just happy that they did,” Jane said.
“We had a good year. To lose by one point in the end was a bit hard.”
Gear said he had little contact with the selectors this year despite his form explosion in the Air NZ Cup, where he scored a competition-high 14 tries.
His main contact for advice had been older brother Rico, the former All Blacks winger now playing for Worcester in England.
“I rang him last night, he was the second person I told after my partner,” Gear said.
“He was over the moon.
“It (selection) surprised me a little bit because I still have a few areas of my game to work on.”
Wellington was the most represented union in the 35-man All Blacks squad, with midfielders Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu, halfback Piri Weepu, No 8 Rodney So’oialo, lock Ross Filipo and prop Neemia Tialata also getting the nod.
Unlucky teammates included lock Jeremy Thrush, prop John Schwalger and halfback Alby Mathewson.