Ssometimes the worst thing you can do is win. Success in the nominal sense can hide many sins. Although the victories for Black Ferns from New Zealand continued, it was easy to believe that the system worked. Those hectic domestic seasons, coaching teams and part-time were the recipe for victory.
But review on 34 pages in the culture and environment of the team exposes the true price of this success.
As in women’s rugby, it was easier to put something on than to change something. We can wear brighter uniforms, play on the main field, broadcast matches live and feel that progress is being made. However, almost everyone who participates is still able to give only half of themselves.
This includes administrators who have to hold another tournament at the top of an already long to-do list, coaches who, if lucky, are subsidized by work elsewhere in rugby, and players themselves who take annual leave and turn to Whānau (family). ) to illuminate your home life to make yourself available to choose from. Participants are required, as they say in cheerfulness, 110% – and this percentage – fiction, just not within human capabilities.
All of this is born from a hybrid model that quickly spread in the world of women’s sports. The theory of the 1980s tells women that we can have everything if we add sport to family responsibilities and work. Each season we tell the story of these mothers who are simultaneously builders, police officers or teachers, playing for their team. Their uniqueness sets an example for all of us. But, as any working mother will tell you, such stories are permeated with victims. Ask any of the little girls who look at home who they want to be when they grow up, and the answer very rarely involves both their dream job and another to fund it.
So the question that still needs to be answered by New Zealand rugby is – where do they see women’s play in the rugby ecosystem?
Until recently, our team, which won the five-time World Cup, still ranked inside as joint rugby. And now we know that this amateurism has been transferred to the way we created our high-performance program. The governing body responsible for supporting the professional environment of All Blacks, All Black 7s, Maori All Blacks, Black Ferns 7s, and went along with six Super Rugby franchises and 11 provincial unions participating in the National Provincial Championship, do not know how to set up the program for Black Ferns 15s.
All the lessons learned from the professionalization of men’s play in the 1990s do not seem to apply here, revealing the real problem – rugby is still not for women.
Our role in the game is still seen as touristy. We visit the male domain and they will quickly remind who put the stamp in the passport. Some borders are open, locals are friendly, but elsewhere we have not yet agreed on a passage. In order for us to become naturalized citizens and be accepted in certain circles, we are expected to condemn our community of origin, and women in positions of influence are often forced to act as a shield for decisions made by men. We study the script prepared for us: “This is a good start.” Repeat to everyone who will listen.
However, women’s rugby in Aatearoa has a unique heritage. One of resourcefulness, inclusiveness and endurance. The culture that allowed us to adopt the 26 recommendations outlined in this week’s review. In order for rugby in New Zealand to move forward to success, it must combine the lessons of the professional era with knowledge of women’s play.
Pākehā (white European) can learn a lot from the women’s gaming base, which would be valuable in the game. Our version of rugby is based on tikanga (Maori practice) and we don’t want to lose that advantage by assimilating standard New Zealand rugby models. We have seen the pain caused by the racism outlined in this review, as well as in the experience of our Maori and Pacific brothers. We have a chance to do things differently; we have a chance to do everything right.
However, this requires a reboot of our current approach. Women’s play can no longer be a footnote or a diluted version of a man’s sentence. We have to let our game stand in its own mana. We need to allow people, both on and off the field, to make women’s rugby their full-time job. We need to invest if we want to grow. We need to go all-in. We need our wāhine (women) to take their place at the table as we find our way forward together.
Alice Soper found rugby at the age of 13 and has since played for Eden Park and Twickenham. She is a member of the Strategic Advisory Group for Women in Rugby Aatearoa, a local high school coach and is a regular commentator on the challenges women face in sports.