14 Nov 2022

NZ Rugby mulls World Cup bonus for Black Ferns

5:20 pm on 14 November 2022
Kennedy Simon and Ruahei Demant of New Zealand lift the trophy for the fans.
New Zealand Black Ferns Thank You Aotearoa - Celebrate #LikeaBlackFern event at Te Komititanga Square, Auckland, New Zealand on Sunday 13 November 2022. Mandatory credit: Alan Lee / www.photosport.nz

The Black Ferns were crowned champions after beating England 34-31 at the Rugby World Cup final. Photo: Photosport / Alan Lee

The Black Ferns could soon be receiving a monetary bonus for their Rugby World Cup win on Saturday night, with New Zealand Rugby saying it wants to "do the right thing".

Aotearoa is still revelling in the team's victory, beating England 34-31 in one of New Zealand's great sporting moments.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson wouldn't commit to a figure but told Morning Report NZ Rugby were working through whether the team would receive anything.

"We would like to be in a position to do something pretty soon."

The All Blacks players received $150,000 bonuses after their World Cup win in 2015.

The organisation wanted to "do the right thing", Robinson said.

NZ Rugby was investing $40 million across provincial unions, he said, with a focus on improving women's and girl's rugby.

"We know there's always expectation to do more and to do better and faster but we feel like we're in a good space and now just have to ... capture this momentum and move forward really quickly."

There were almost 70 full contracted players across women's 15s and sevens and about 115 players across Super Rugby with part time contracts, Robinson said.

However, many of the Black Ferns will go back to day jobs in the next few weeks.

Some of the professional women's rugby contract retainers are between $35,000 and $70,000, with some Black Ferns earning between $60,000 and $130,000.

All Black Ferns sevens players were fully contracted with a tiered system for the 15s team.

Top All Blacks players reportedly earn around $1 million a year.

"We want to do more in the space and we want to move as quickly as we can," Robinson said.

"This is a question of looking to grow this area of the game while balancing the needs of the athletes, of coaches, of the people that can support the high performance environments and whilst there's obviously huge appetite to work with urgency around this, we want to get it right."

There were plans to initiate much of this work before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, he said.

NZ Rugby wasn't able to invest like it wanted to in high performance or contracts during that time.

"To be fair, a lot of that was out of our hands," he said.

"We saw the impact of that towards the end of last year on the tour the Black Ferns went on where clearly, especially England and France have moved ahead with professional domestic competitions and the ability to have more international rugby through that time, and we weren't able to."

The organisation needed to make sure the next wave of talent coming through were looked after well, he said.

"I think we're a long way from pay parity at the moment," former Black Ferns captain and now New Zealand Rugby board member Farah Palmer told Morning Report.

"We're getting there, it's not at the level of the men's game yet but we're definitely getting there."

There were All Blacks on significant contracts and NZ Rugby wanted to make sure there was parity for the amount of games played and the commitment needed, Palmer said.

It was important the whole system of women's rugby was look at, she said.

"We are committed, we're not dropping the ball after this Rugby World Cup, we're going to keep going."

"We've definitely realised that we can capture some crowds and supporters that we haven't captured before so we want to learn from that, we're going to take some time to regather and review what we can learn from it."

Initial audience figures show more than 1.3 million New Zealanders watched the final.

This was the turning point for women's rugby, Sports Minister Grant Robertson said.

"There's massive commercial opportunities I think for women's rugby that now need to be taken up."

It was important to make sure elite players had more games and there was a pipeline for players, he said.

"This is such an opportunity for us and as a country we need to grasp it. I know New Zealand rugby get that and they're not alone in having a responsibility to be able to take this forward, we all do in our communities..." he said.

Sports Minister Grant Robertson, speaking after today's Cabinet meeting, said the Black Ferns were "extraordinary athletes, exceptional people, and proud New Zealanders".

"Eden Park on Saturday night - I've been to Eden Park a lot in my life - I have never felt an atmosphere like what we had at Eden Park. I think that the talent and skill level of this team is extraordinary.

"I believe that their triumph at Eden Park is one of New Zealand's greatest sporting moments," he said. "To come back from the depths of despair in 2021 and to win this tournament is a reflection on the mana, wairua and mahi of champions."

He said he had been in contact with Wellington mayor Tory Whanau about celebrating the team's success, including with an event at Parliament, after the team's two-week break.

Whether that would include a parade would depend on the council and logistics, he said.

He would be delighted if the players were to receive bonuses from their win, but that was ultimately a decision for New Zealand Rugby.

"I think they deserve that, we've made considerable progress in player payments overall for our women rugby players but there's always more to do - and I certainly think given the performance throught he tournament they deserve everything we can get them."

"I heard the chief executive today indicate that he thought they were working towards bonuses for the Black Ferns."

He said he believed overall in working towards pay parity across all sport.

"There are lots of reasons why individual sports will tell you that that is impossible, one of those in the past has been the commercial value - of the Black Ferns in this case - I think we saw amply demonstrated on the weekend that there is extraordinary brand value in the Black Ferns.

"There's a heap of work for all of us and I do not put this all on New Zealand Rugby - to make sure that we build up not just women's rugby but other sporting opportunities for women and girls across our communities, make sure that we have a pipeline of players to come forward to teams like the Black Ferns.

"The quality of what we're seeing deserves the support that should be coming."

He acknowledged players past, saying the Black Ferns themselves were the first to acknowledge they stood on the shoulders of giants, and said the England team also "deserve plaudits for their commitment, exceptional performance and skill" for their part in the final.

He said the government had supported the tournament with nearly $20 million of investment, including with legacy-making upgrades to rugby grounds around the country.

"To see 42,000 people at Eden Park was a huge vindication for that investment, let alone the long-term benefits that will flow."

He said it was important to build on the legacy however, and to continue to encourage women and girls to participate and excell in all forms of sport and recreation.

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