The Duke of Sussex yesterday oversaw the 2021 Rugby League World Cup pool draw at Buckingham Palace in London. This was his first public appearance since he and wife Meghan announced their decision to step back from their royal roles.
During the pool draws, Prince Harry, the patron of the Rugby Football League, spent time meeting with the players who represented their country at the event.
Among them was Tongan representative Konrad Hurrell, who tweeted a photo with the Prince.
“Still can’t get over today,” he said in his tweet. “Kid from Tonga get to walk into Buckingham Palace and get to meet the Duke of Sussex. Honoured to represent my Tongan brothers and country for the @RLWC2021 draw.”
But it was Hurrell’s footwear that caught the attention of the public: he was wearing jandals inside the palace. “Only Koni Hurrell can meet the Duke of Sussex in his Havaianas, the actual man,” tweeted one fan, Kigae.
New Zealand’s code-hopping star Honey Hireme described her meeting with Harry as a “crazy” experience.
Hireme, 38, said it was honour “this little Māori girl from Putaruru got to walk around Buckingham Palace and meet the Duke of Sussex”.
She told Trackside Radio she was “blown away” by Harry’s demeanour. “We all had to line up to meet him and I got put at the front of the line,” she said.
“They introduced us, who we were and our countries, and he leant in and gave me a hongi, which I wasn’t expecting.
“I'm obviously really glad I went in for the hongi and didn't kind of like, stick my lips out and go for a kiss.”
Hireme, who has represented New Zealand in league, rugby and sevens, revealed how rigorous their briefing was before meeting him amid intense media scrutiny over his future in the royal family.
“It was absolutely crazy with all the media just trying to get a glimpse of him,” she said.
“He’s just a really, really great guy. He’s genuinely invested in rugby league. He was so clued up on what was going on.”