After twenty three years since men’s rugby union was first made professional, the Black Ferns – New Zealand’s national women’s team, will be offered paid contracts for the first time in the country’s history. On the whole, the women will be offered contracts up to a maximum of NZ$45,000, which would include payments and allowances.
The progressive change is bound to increase betting interest in the women’s rugby in New Zealand, which was thus far overshadowed by women’s football, primarily due to easily accessible betting predictions for the sport on portals such as SBAT. While this change has been generally well received, it is not the first of its kind, since England had previously given out similar contracts to professional women’s XV prior to last year’s Rugby World Cup.
A progressive change
The new memorandum of understanding formulated between New Zealand Rugby Players Association and New Zealand Rugby sees a minimum of 30 rugby players employed on the basis of paid contracts. In addition to the contractual payments, they will also receive access to health insurance, along with maternity leave benefits. These changes have essentially been brought about to ensure that women are not forced to make a choice between family life and participating in rugby, a decision which has been applauded across the board in the country.
As part of their obligations towards the team, the 30 contracted players will have to commit around 10-15 hours per week to training, in addition to participating in training camps for 50 days a year, and playing fixtures. Considering that the contracts are of a semi-professional nature and the wages being offered to the players are not equivalent to a living wage, the players will be encouraged to continue with their employment and education alongside their rugby life.
Increasing popularity amongst women
The historic move comes in the backdrop of increased participation by women in rugby union across the world, with a reported increase of 60% in female rugby players since 2013, and an astonishing 150% increase in the number of registered female rugby players since the same year. To put it in context, this data indicates that at present, 1 out of 4 rugby union players in the world is a woman.
In the Tasmanian region, the decision follows the creation of Australia’s women’s XVs league, which has been named Super W, which at the moment does not offer any contractual payment to its players. As per NZRPA CEO Rob Nichol, the MoU promises to ensure a sustainable future for women’s rugby in the country. “This is a significant milestone for the women’s XV game,” he said. “It is a long-term sustainable model that offers genuine pathways and support for female players on and off the field, and that we can build on in the future.” said Nichol.
The change was welcomed by Black Ferns player, Kendra Cocksedge, who feels that she and her teammates will now be rewarded for all the time and effort that they put into rugby, a game they love. On the whole, it is a promising start to a new era of equality, which will ensure that due recognition will be given to each and every player’s contribution to the sport.