Mitre 10 Cup: Akira Ioane 'sticking it' to All Blacks selectors after snub - Grant Fox

Akira Ioane's inspiring play not only led Auckland to a Mitre 10 Cup premiership title, but also "shoved it up" the national selectors.

That's the assessment of one-third of the All Blacks brains trust, Grant Fox, after the number eight's late-season form proved critical in the blue-and-white hoops winning a first provincial title since 2007.

Ioane's snubbing for the All Blacks tour of Japan and Europe may have lit a fire under the 23-year-old, which could ultimately change the course of his career.

Despite a yellow card in Auckland's 40-33 win over Canterbury on Saturday, Ioane was a constant threat around the park, casting a menacing presence for the red-and-black defence.

Fox admits Ioane has proved them wrong in the final weeks of the provincial competition, but the onus remains on the loose forward to continue his form for the Blues.

"He is really sticking it up us a little bit, which is exactly what we wanted," Fox told Sunday Sport on RadioLIVE. "We made our decision around Akira and he has given us a response.

"He has done exactly what we wanted - we wanted him to show us that he is willing to learn and do some things that we think he needs to do to become a test-quality player, and he is making great strides.

"We just need to see that in Super Rugby next year."

Fox was delighted with Auckland's return to the top of New Zealand provincial rugby, left stunned at the turnaround of a side that just a year ago was one loss from relegation.

Alama Ieremia was brought in as coach earlier this year, and he added Filo Tiatia, Tai Laevea and Sir Graham Henry to his staff.

Ieremia focused on structure, culture and discipline in a bid to rebuild Auckland into the force it once was.

Fox told Andrew Gourdie and James McOnie just making the final four would have been an over-achievement, but winning the competition is an outstanding accomplishment.

"Hopefully, this is just the start of good things to come for Auckland Rugby in the next period of time," he said.

"The coaching group should take a great amount of compliments for what they have done this year in turning things around.

"It's been an example of, if you can get the coaching structure right, you have a great chance of succeeding and Auckland did just that this year.

"Just making the semi-final would have been considered a success, when you look at where they came from, but to actually go on and win all but one game, beat Canterbury twice in a season, credit needs to go to all those involved."

Mitre 10 Cup: Akira Ioane 'sticking it' to All Blacks selectors after snub - Grant Fox

The former All Black first-five also threw a lot of credit to Auckland Rugby and Eden Park for allowing free entry into the ground for the final.

More than 20,000 took up the offer, providing a tremendous atmosphere for New Zealand's provincial rugby showpiece in a throwback to yesteryear.

Auckland Rugby's CEO Jarrod Bear told Sunday Sport that financial loss never crossed their minds, as they looked to reinvigorate the city's appetite for provincial rugby.

"I don't think we lost a penny," Bear said. "It was about investing in Auckland Rugby and getting people engaged with rugby in Auckland again.

"It's going to be a continuing challenge to get people in stadia, because the home viewing experience is so good, but you can't beat that live sporting environment and being part of a rowdy crowd, going through all the emotions they all went through yesterday.

"We have been averaging around 6000 a game throughout the season, so to put 20,000 in the seats, experiencing the occasion and shouting on the boys, was a pretty good result."