New Zealand rugby boss Mark Robinson admitted “we didn’t do everything right”. Photo / photo sport
New Zealand Rugby has apologized for not adequately supporting elite women’s football after a scathing look back at Black Ferns culture. However, head coach Glenn Moore has been put in charge of managing the team
until their home World Cup later that year.
The results of the Black Ferns’ 30-page review, which contains 26 recommendations, were released in Auckland on Monday.
The scrutiny was sparked after Senior Black Ferns’ hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate revealed via social media that following allegedly critical comments from Moore on last year’s year-end tour, which saw record four consecutive losses to England and France, had suffered a nervous breakdown.
Test director Phillipa Muir, a partner at leading law firm Simpson Grierson, outlined how Ngata-Aerengamate collapsed on the eve of the third Test in Toulouse after not being selected.
Ngata-Aerengamate said her non-selection was the last straw after eight years of being negatively influenced and not feeling valued except for cultural aspects she brought to the team.
Muir said she was not properly supported in the days after Ngata-Aerengamate’s collapse.
“The review team believes that what happened to Te Kura that night and the days that followed was not well monitored or managed and should have been escalated,” Muir said.
Among the most damning findings of the Black Ferns review is that there is no clear or consistent high-performance vision, practices or mentality, while asserting a clear cultural divide between players and management.
The review includes allegations of culturally insensitive comments; poor communication and inconsistent feedback; favoritism and ghosting; body shaming issues for some players; and a lack of good recruitment, onboarding, and ongoing support for management and players.
By offering some balance, it recognizes that in high-performance environments, players need to build resilience in order to accept critical feedback and improve from it.
With 75 percent of the roster being Māori or Pasifika, the review underscored the need for greater diversity in the aging, male-dominated management team and a better understanding of how to coach female athletes.
In the Health and Wellbeing section, the review states that there is a need to dismantle systems and practices that “reflect only a Pākehā worldview.”
After Muir conducted 52 interviews with former Black Fern Tammi Wilson Uluinayau, Muir confirmed that Ngata-Aerengamate, who is not one of the Black Ferns’ contract players this year, was far from a lone voice of disagreement.
“We found that this framework moved very quickly into a semi-professional environment and unfortunately the resources weren’t there to support that,” Muir said.
“There is some remodeling work that needs to be done. Everyone between the players and management wants this job done. Our feeling is that there is an obligation to this rebuilding. We have a Rugby World Cup in six months. Everyone wants to do their best for that. There is some very positive feedback from the last camp.”
New Zealand rugby boss Mark Robinson admitted that women’s rugby’s transition from amateur to semi-professional, which includes the brief start of Super Rugby Aupiki last month and the move to full-contract Black Ferns, leaves big gaps in left critical areas.
“We didn’t do everything right and this report underscores that. As a company, we apologize for not providing our employees with all of these tools to be successful, and we know and appreciate that we have a lot of hard work ahead of us,” Robinson said.
“No one should have any doubts about our commitment to the advancement of women’s rugby in this country.”
Another telling feedback was the revelation that too many annual reviews of the Black Ferns have resulted in little or no change. Players and management say they don’t trust tour reviews as a result.
Moore has not cited the immediate aftermath while the team is in camp in Christchurch, but his testimony has not acknowledged any major shortcomings. Robinson assured that changes would be made this time.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say they were previously ignored,” Robinson said. “We acknowledge the feedback from the review. We respect the process and the people. There is a lot of information to work through, but there are some things we want to act on quickly as they relate to the environment so we can succeed with the all World Cup and then there are some other issues, which may take a little longer.
“We recognize that we haven’t gotten everything right, but the intention and commitment is there and this provides us with a fantastic roadmap to improve in a number of areas. We do not hide from the fact that these issues exist and we take them very seriously.
“After evaluating the campaign and cultural reviews, we believe Glenn is the right person to lead the coaching staff and we are committed to increasing resources within the management team to support this.” Glenn is exceptionally competent and experienced as a trainer who cares deeply about the Black Ferns.
“We know that gender diversity and balance in coaching is an area that we need to work on in relation to the Black Ferns and women’s high-performance environments in general.”
The Black Ferns are a team with an illustrious legacy of five world titles from seven attempts.
Tackling the widespread improvements from the review will be just as daunting as trying to capture a world title on home soil.