Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 July 2019

Desperately seeking Stu: Kiwi man's international search for UAE owner of rugby jersey

Christopher Te'o had a Hurricanes rugby jersey signed by the team after meeting a stranger in a bar in Auckland, and then lost his details. He only knows his name: Stu

Christopher Te'o had a Hurricanes rugby shirt signed by the New Zealand team, but now can't find its owner. Courtesy Christopher Te'o. 
Christopher Te'o had a Hurricanes rugby shirt signed by the New Zealand team, but now can't find its owner. Courtesy Christopher Te'o. 

It was the night of May 10, 2019.

Christopher Te'o, his partner and siblings were at a hotel in central Auckland in New Zealand, unwinding after "watching the Mighty Canes vanquish the Blues".

And in non-New Zealand speak, that's: "watch the Hurricanes rugby team, which are based in Wellington, beat the Auckland Blues rugby team by a considerable margin (22-12)".

Teo's group had travelled from Wellington to watch the game, and were coincidentally staying at the same hotel as their sporting brethren. Also staying at that hotel, was a man named Stu.

"Stu was at another table alone for a little while before we invited him over to join us," Te'o recalls, speaking from his home in New Zealand.

"We got chatting among the group, [and] he had his jersey and was waiting for some of the 'Canes to come back to get signatures."

Unfortunately, the team had yet to return from the match. It was now nearing midnight, and Stu had a 4am flight back to his home in Abu Dhabi.

"He wasn't having much luck, so I said to him leave your jersey with me, I'll try and get the signatures for you and send it to him in the UAE."

Stu gladly accepted, and the two exchanged contact details on bar napkins.

In a serendipitous twist of fate fitting of such a tale, Te'o ran into Hurricanes player Du' Plessis Kirifi in a Wellington gym just over a week later.

"He didn't know me from a bar of soap, but I said 'hello' and just asked him if he could get the jersey signed," Te'o says.

"He was awesome and said yes and we arranged dropping the jersey off, and of course it was just before they left for South Africa."

Kirifi took the shirt with him on the team's journey to play the Sharks in Durban, and brought it back to Te'o upon their return, signed and ready for posting to the UAE.

But naturally, those flimsy tissue papers exchanged at the bar that night in May hadn't stood the test of time, and had been lost somewhere. And thus, so too had Stu's contact details, and any hopes of sending him the completed jersey.

The only descriptor he had for Stu was that he was a "Kiwi male from Palmy", which again, in non-New Zealand lingo, translated to: "A New Zealander from Palmerston North, a town in the North Island."

"I tried to get his details through the hotel a few weeks later, but I had no name, just that I knew Stu lived in Abu Dhabi. The staff tried to be helpful after I explained but they said with just a location it would be like looking for a needle in a hay stack."

And so in a move befitting a 21st-century search for a rugby jersey's missing owner, Te'o turned to social media.

His post was shared around a few locals in the UAE, but until recently, the hunt bore no fruit.

Even the New Zealand ambassador to the UAE, Matthew Hawkins, tried his luck, to no avail.

"He's an old rugby club mate we connected through other old boys who saw the post," Te'o says, in a comment that could only be typical of a nation of 4.7 million people in the middle of the Pacific, with an incredible flighty population (ironic given its symbol, a Kiwi, is very much flightless).

Plenty of people had ruminated over who Stu might be, offering up suggestions of friends, or friends of friends, but the actual Stu remained elusive.

Until now.

Because there is basically nothing that social media can't do these days, Stu has since been found.

As it turns out, Stu is actually Stew, or Stewy Murphy, according to Facebook.

A friend had shared Te'o's post, and Murphy reacted with the sort of surprise that only many exclamation marks could accurately portray to a recipient on the other side of the world.

"Soooooo amazing!!!! Wow! Small world!!! Thank you so so so much!!" Murphy wrote on the post.

"It was fantastic meeting you all and I am so grateful for this incredible surprise! I still have the napkin with all your details on, found it buried in my suitcase after I had packed things far too well, thank goodness! Will be in touch! Wishing you and all the family all the very very best and here's hoping for a sensational end to the 2019 season for our Canes! Cheerz! Stewy."

Updated: June 18, 2019 02:32 PM

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