Wellington's 'Cake Tin' - roadside stories

Wellington’s Westpac Stadium – known to some as the ‘Cake Tin’ – opened in 1999 to replace the former rugby venue of Athletic Park. Rugby was first played at Athletic Park in 1896 and it saw some memorable games, including two All Black tests against France in cyclone-force winds. The new stadium, located in a less exposed, more central part of the city, seats more than 34,000 people.


Narrator: The site of the [2011] Rugby World Cup games in Wellington is Westpac Stadium. Opened in 1999, the Cake Tin, as the modern stadium is known outside Wellington, is a popular venue. Its central location near the city’s railway station means that it is easily accessible.

Before the Westpac Stadium was built, Wellington’s main rugby venue was Athletic Park. It was located in the suburb of Berhampore, close to the southern coast. During the winter months, the chilling Wellington southerly could whip up Cook Strait and over Athletic Park, making conditions particularly unpleasant for players and fans.

Rugby was first played at Athletic Park in 1896. During the 20th century, it hosted some memorable rugby games, often due to the weather. The 1961 All Black test against France was played in hurricane-force winds of around 140 km an hour. With scores level, Don ‘The Boot’ Clarke attempted a conversion from near the touchline with a swirling wind behind him.

Don Clarke (actor's voice): Believing the conversion was impossible, I simply kicked out along the 25-yard line, and left the rest to the wind. To my astonishment it went over. I take no credit for that kick. It was a fluke.

Narrator: The wind swung the ball at right angles to fly between the posts for perhaps the most improbable conversion in all test history. But it was enough to give the All Blacks a 5-3 win.  

In 1968, the All Blacks again played France in hurricane-force winds. Playing with the wind, France was awarded a penalty well inside their own half. When fullback Pierre Villepreux lined up a shot at goal, local fans laughed.. But the ball sailed between the posts. Estimated to be a 65-m kick, it remains one of the most famous long-range penalties of all time.

Other famous games at Athletic Park included the All Blacks’ series-winning victory over the touring British Lions in 1950, and their 43-6 win over Australia in the very first Tri-Nations test in 1996.

However, facilities at Athletic Park were outdated. It was finally agreed that a new stadium be built on surplus land in Wellington’s railyards. In 1999 Athletic Park was closed and replaced by the Westpac Stadium.

The Westpac Stadium has modern facilities with seating for over 34,000 fans, with over two-thirds of the seats covered. In its short history, the Cake Tin has already been the site of many epic sports games.

In 2000, lock John Eales, standing over six-and-a-half feet tall, kicked a beautiful last-minute penalty to ensure Australia retained the Bledisloe Cup and won the Tri-nations Series that year.

But the most famous game at the Cake Tin so far did not involve rugby. In 2009 the New Zealand national soccer team, the All Whites, played Bahrain in the second leg of their qualifying game for the 2010 soccer World Cup. The stadium was packed to capacity with most fans wearing white. A headed goal by Rory Fallon was enough to send the crowd into a frenzy and the All Whites to South Africa. At the World Cup, the All Whites were unbeaten, with draws against Slovakia, Italy, and Paraguay.

As well as hosting rugby tests, the Westpac Stadium hosts cricket and rugby league games and is the home of the Wellington Phoenix soccer team. Every February, the stadium is the site of the NZI International Sevens, which has become famous for the incredible array of costumes that fans wear. The Cake Tin has also been the venue for concerts by the Rolling Stones, Elton John, AC/DC and Neil Diamond.

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