Despite the financial ravages of Covid-19, Auckland Rugby is giving up a six-figure windfall to allow fans into the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership final on Saturday night for free.
With the backing of Eden Park and their sponsors, the team says it wants to give back the community after a season that for many started last December.
Coach Alama Ieremia told 1 NEWS the grind has taken a toll on his players both physically and mentally.
“We’ve blooded 15 players this year,” he said.
“[But] a big part of me has been counsellor this year … the unseen world that has crept up on us, are the pressures at home.
“Getting your pay docked and for some of them they have other jobs as well that they need to supplement - there are some that have had to put [those jobs] on hold.
The Auckland union, like all provinces, is also under the pump with reduced grant money from head office, club rugby slashed, and also no gate takings during Auckland's second lock down.
But CEO Jarrod Bear said none of that will stop them throwing the gates wide open this weekend.
“More important for our organisation is to recognise the community,” Bear said.
“Give them the chance to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which they might not have done, if we were charging at the gates.”
Ieremia was quick to point out the staff and players realise they're lucky to still do what they love and that his ill father is extra motivation for Saturday’s match against Tasman.
“Like most island parents you're never good enough, my team's not good enough unless we win it,” Ieremia joked.
“I'm looking forward to giving him a big hug and saying, ‘we did it, dad’.”