It may have been only 48 hours in a lifetime, but it's a "huge" couple of days for 10 pupils of Wairoa's Tiaho School who returned home on Tuesday night after representing Hawke's Bay in the New Zealand Rugby Union's Rippa Rugby tournament in Wellington.
Teacher and team manager Tangi Geary said many had never been on an aircraft before, half had never been to Wellington, and it's doubtful any had met Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear and Julian Savea, the three All Blacks with whom they all got to rub shoulders with during a dream trip to the capital.
As the five boys and five girls aged either 9 or 10 years, gathered their baggage at Hawke's Bay Airport with still another 90 minutes on the road to get home, Ms Geary said that while the school based in Wairoa's North Clyde tries to give its pupils the best chances to compete in all local competitions, trips outside the area are rare events.
"This trip is certainly going to be a highlight of these guys' education," she said. "Everything the kids have done the last two days has been huge - surprises virtually every hour."
Costs were mainly met by the NZRFU, covering the airfares and accommodation for the team, manager and coach and parent Stephen Huata at a central Wellington backpackers' lodge.
The Wairoa community made sure the team got to and from the airport in Napier and was not left wanting for anything else on the trip, and two families travelled separately to Wellington to support the team.
The team had no idea such adventures were on offer when they entered the Wairoa Rippa Rugby competition earlier in the year, and neither did the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union.
Development officer Dan Somerville already had plans in place for a provincial event and tournaments throughout the region were under way, with a local variation based on teams with seven boys and three girls.
Tiaho won the Wairoa competition and in a decision which went right to the Hawke's Bay union's board table, got the nod to represent the Bay after a special playoff in which each qualifying team had one win each.
Playing on artificial turf - another "surprise" - at Wakefield Park, Island Bay, Tiaho won three of their seven games, beating the Waikato school Strathmore, Fenwick Primary from North Otago, and the capital's own Ngaio.
The last game started at 12.30pm on Tuesday and half an hour later the players were packing their bags for the trip to the airport.
But the trip home was only part of a big week for the pioneering kids from Wairoa as they learnt to adapt to the schedule of the fulltime footballer.
Tomorrow they head back to Napier for the finals of the Hawke's Bay Rippa Rugby finals, under the floodlights in the build-up to the Magpies' ITM Cup match against Bay of Plenty at McLean Park.