To understand what drives the Black Ferns … think about fundamentals: spirit, fair play, camaraderie, passion, pride, and the notion that the team is always bigger than the individual. The Black Ferns never once complained publicly about resources, allowances, pay parity, or the delicate balancing act of combining sport and work. Scotty Stevenson
Women’s rugby comes of age
By Roger Childs
There was a time when rugby was considered too rough for women and girls; best left to the male of the species.
Then, when it started officially, there was scant media interest and games looked as bad as male college staff trying to beat the top girls’ netball team.
But those days are gone.
Back in late September, in front of a large enthusiastic crowd and an ITV audience on Britain of 2.65 million, the amateur Black Ferns comfortably beat the professional English team 41-32 playing rugby of high quality.
The rise of the female game
Women’s rugby has blossomed in the 21st century at the college, provincial and international levels. From the start the Black Ferns were very competitive in the test arena and have done well in sevens.
At the Rio Olympics last year there was heartbreak when in the final against Australia, one of New Zealand greatest ever players, Portia Woodman, deliberately knocked the ball down, was sent off and cost her team gold medals.
In the September World Cup final, another yellow card, this time for a dangerous tackle, threatened to derail the Black Fern’s bid for glory and allowed the English to take a half time lead.
A well deserved victory
However, the Kiwi women were not to be denied. Whereas in their previous encounter when the English pushed the New Zealand forwards around and won comfortably, this time the boots were on the other feet.
The Black Fern won the battle in the tight and the player of the match was prop forward Toka Natua who scored a hat trick of tries. It was still a closely fought contest and the English had their moments.
In the end the best team won: the Kiwi scored seven tries to four in the 41-32 victory. This time around the media has been taking notice, games were broadcast live on television and there was a great crowd for the final.
Getting the accolades
A huge breakthrough occurred last month when the Black Ferns became the International Rugby Board (IRB) World Rugby Team of the Year.
And Kiwi women, Portia Woodman and Michaella Blyde won the best woman player of the year in the 15 and 7 person games.
Not surprisingly, The Black Ferns also won the New Zealand Rugby Union team of the year award.
Hopefully the success of the Black Ferns in the 2017 World Cup and the IRB awards, will result in the New Zealand
Rugby Union investing more money in the rapidly growing women’s game.
There is now a woman on the New Zealand Rugby Board, and last week, across the Tasman, Raelene Castle was appointed CEO of the Australian Rugby Board.
The necessary breakthroughs are happening and the women’s game is gaining the recognition it deserves.
(To see Prue Hyman’s take on the need for New Zealand Sportswomen generally to get a better deal, scroll down to December 10.)