Dr Ashley Bloomfield’s led the charge in New Zealand’s fight against Covid-19 this year.
But it’s now been 85 days since the last case of community transition of the virus, and the Ministry of Health director-general was ready to slip back into a past role as rugby player today.
Taking to the field at Wainuiomata Rugby Club as the self-proclaimed 'Eliminator', Dr Bloomfield took part in the 25th anniversary match of the New Zealand Parliamentary Rugby Team, playing as a loose forward for the Wellington-region’s Centurions.
“The thing it says to me is we can do this cause we put in the hard yards earlier in the year and everybody’s team work and effort and we can get out and do this and have a bit of fun,” Dr Bloomfield said.
Hundreds turned out for the clash, many coming just to see Dr Bloomfield in the flesh after seeing him on their TV screens every day during updates on the Covid-19 situation.
“I’m hoping that he’s got a few more surprises up his sleeve and tackles a few more people instead of being tackled himself,” Waikanae man Ricky Mark said.
“I just think it’s awesome that everyday New Zealanders can get access to, you know, look around the world with all this stuff’s that’s going on and we’re here in New Zealand and get to watch the people that run our country play rugby,” he said.
Vicky Kaiwai and her children came from Wellington to thank Dr Bloomfield for the efforts he’s made with a banner.
“He’s done an amazing job during Covid, fronting every day, 1 o’clock… us and the kids would tune in every day and we just wanted to come along and show our support to him,” Ms Kaiwai said.
Dr Bloomfield has proven he’s a safe pair of hands before as Vice-Captain of Scots College’s 1st XV in 1983.
“He was a nuggety little guy, you could always rely on him to get stuck in… on average our forward pack would be would be a stone or two lighter than most, or 10 to 20 kilos lighter than most packs we played against in those days,” 1983 Scots College’s 1st XV Captain Stathe Apostolakis said.
A humble, likeable and intelligent all-rounder at school, Mr Apostolakis said him and his teammates always knew Dr Bloomfield was destined for higher honours.
“Puts a lump in your throat… makes you very proud that our mate was looking after the country at the time and we knew that you couldn’t be in better hands,” he said.
“There’s nothing that would set him apart in a crowd except for when he opened his mouth everyone would listen; wise words flowed from a young man.”
Today, Dr Bloomfield was on hand with good health and fitness helping him secure the win for his team, even scoring a try.
“I scored one try, yeah that was a ‘gimme’ so I won’t claim any credit for that,” he said.
“I'm feeling a bit sore so I must have hit the ground a couple of times… tomorrow that’s going to be something else.”
Dr Bloomfield’s youngest fans were quick to congratulate him in his latest victory with the chief executive taking time to meet them and check out their supporter signage.
The final score was 19-10 to the Centurions.