Bay community leaders calling for more support for Black Ferns after World Cup victory

The Black Ferns celebrate winning the Women’s Rugby World Cup against England. Photo / Dean Purcell

A Bay of Plenty coach says the Black Ferns Women’s World Cup win has “shot women’s rugby into the next atmosphere”, and is keen to see what happens next.

Meanwhile, others involved in the Bay of Plenty senior women’s rugby scene, including a veteran player and club officials, as well as avid Black Ferns fans are calling for more financial backing.

New Zealand Rugby says it has invested upwards of $20 million on women’s and girls’ rugby and is moving as fast as it can to work through some options to reward the Black Ferns and says it will announce this in the coming days.

Bay of Plenty Volcanix head coach Brent Kaua said he was in the stands at Eden Park along with 45,000 other vocal spectators at the sold-out match against the England team on Saturday.

“I have been to many All Blacks matches and the atmosphere at Saturday’s final was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It was sensational.

“The crowd didn’t leave the stadium for at least an hour after the final whistle and they were chanting ‘Black Ferns, Black Ferns’.”

Kaua said the Black Ferns had achieved what some people suggested was impossible, not only winning against the English team but selling out the Eden Park stadium.

“To be honest, I feel the women’s game is so much more exciting to watch compared to the men’s. And I look forward to seeing what the NZ Rugby Union does in response.

“I think the aftermath of the Black Ferns’ historic win is going to be gigantic and these women have shot women’s rugby into the next atmosphere.

“I’ve been involved in the women’s game for about 14 years, and we need to capitalise on this sensational win.”

Kaua said there was a lost opportunity at the final when people wanted to take Black Ferns merchandise home but there was a shortage of jerseys.

He said further investment was needed at the grassroots and schools level including upskilling coaching staff and increasing numbers.

Black Ferns’ Santo Taumata and Kendra Reynolds are former Te Puke High students.

Te Puke High principal Alan Liddle said: “Along with our staff and students we are very proud of Kendra and Santo. It is fantastic to see them playing important parts in the success of the Black Fern’s achievements and both become world champions.

“The success of Kendra and Santo will have a significant effect on our current and future students who will be able to see that they have a pathway through secondary school rugby to become part of the Black Ferns team.”‘

Te Puke Primary principal Andrea Dance, who is also the cousin of the Black Ferns captain Ruahei Demant. Photo / Andrew Warner
Te Puke Primary principal Andrea Dance, who is also the cousin of the Black Ferns captain Ruahei Demant. Photo / Andrew Warner

Te Puke Primary principal Andrea Dance was also buzzing when she spoke to the Bay of Plenty Times after the final. Her cousin Ruahei Demant is the Black Ferns captain.

And Black Fern Sarah Hirini’s husband Conor works at the school as a sports co-ordinator.

“It was a phenomenal win and it’s only going to inspire both girls and boys to want to play the game and to emulate the Black Ferns’ success on the world stage,” she said.

“It’s just incredible. These ladies are fantastic role models not only for girls and boys but even for us as adults… Every single one of the Black Ferns squad is a beautiful and wonderful ambassador for New Zealand sport and they and the women’s game deserve more financial recognition.”

Black Ferns Luka Connor and Renee Wickliffe also play for the Rangataua Women’s Rugby team.

Erin Gardiner, the Rangataua Ruby and Sports Club chairperson, said the Black Ferns’ win was only going to do “brilliant things” for the growth of women’s rugby.

“You cannot undervalue what the Black Ferns have achieved. Many of these ladies hold down full-time jobs while the English team are fully-funded professional players.”

A NZ Rugby spokesperson said the union had invested upwards of $20m on women’s and girls’ rugby including competitions, high-performance systems and the Rugby World Cup.

And the union was investing $40m into the community game via our provincial unions which will help to “super charge” the game for all participants including women and girls’, the spokesperson said.

He also said the NZR union would announce a women’s and girls’ strategy soon.

“We are moving as fast as we can to work through some options to reward the Black Ferns team – including talking to sponsors – and will be in a position to confirm what this looks like in the next day or so.”

The spokesperson also said the NZR has increased investment in the Black Ferns with more than 40 Black Ferns players transitioned to full-time contracts in 2022 as well as 25 players on full-time Black Ferns Sevens contracts.

Sports Minister Grant Robertson has also called on NZ Rugby and all sports bodies to ramp up their support for women’s sports and achieve pay parity.

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