New Zealand Rugby unveil findings from Black Ferns culture and environment review

Black Ferns Cultural and Environmental Audit Results. Video / NZ Herald

New Zealand Rugby today released the findings and recommendations from the Black Ferns ‘Culture and Environment’ review.

The main themes and recommendations of the review have been accepted by NZR and work on implementation has started.

The review follows the Black Ferns 2021 North Tour and Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate Instagram post. The review panel was tasked with considering the Black Ferns’ culture and environment to optimize it going forward and ensure the program is in the best position to thrive on and off the field.

The panel consisted of Phillipa Muir, Tammi Wilson Uluinayau, Eleanor Butterworth, Gilbert Enoka, and cultural advisors Luke Crawford and Saveatama Eroni Clarke.

NZR CEO Mark Robinson said NZR had received and thoroughly reviewed the report and will work to implement the panel’s recommendations.

“No one should have any doubts about our commitment to the advancement of women’s rugby in this country. This report highlights that we didn’t do everything right, and we apologize for not providing all the tools for our people’s success.

“The Black Ferns have been great ambassadors for rugby; they have won five out of seven Rugby World Cups since inception and in that time contributed significantly to the mana and heritage of New Zealand rugby; the current group of players and management are part of this.”

The Black Ferns perform the haka ahead of a clash with France last year.  photo sport
The Black Ferns perform the haka ahead of a clash with France last year. photo sport

Several changes have already been made to the Black Ferns following the 2021 season, including last week’s announcement that Wayne Smith will come on board as technical coach to support head coach Glenn Moore.

The report identified key issues centered on the high-performance environment, management and governance structures, communications, health, well-being and culture.

The assessment panel has made 26 recommendations and NZR consulted with player leadership and management to identify a number of areas where immediate action needs to be taken.

The intent is to provide additional support and resources to focus on team culture and leadership within the management team, including specific Tikanga expertise provided by New Zealand rugby Kaihautu Māori Luke Crawford.

Additional educational resources for players and management will be introduced with a focus on harmless workplace sessions, communication strategies and continued personal development plans for players through the NZRPA. Priority will also be given to helping the player management structure grow and deepen.

Emphasis will be on existing policies and new initiatives focused on the health and wellbeing of players and management, with work already underway in this area.

All of this work will contribute to the program’s high-performance vision and standards to foster a sustainable, high-performing environment.

New Zealand Rugby have committed to staying in touch with Muir and Wilson Uluinayau to ensure the recommendations made are taken further.

Key issues identified in the review:

a) There are challenges in the Black Ferns “high performance” environment, as a player,
Management and systems have evolved into a semi-professional model;
b) The culture among Black Ferns players is strong but not fully aligned
c) Management structures do not always adequately support Black Ferns culture and
d) The player management structure is positive but needs refinement;
e) There are significant communication problems between players, coaches and managers
(Management), union (NZRPA) and other stakeholders;
f) There are health and well-being gaps in the environment for players and management; and
g) New Zealand Rugby (NZR) structures have not adequately supported the high in women
Performance rugby in New Zealand.

Read the full results of the review here.

Glenn Moore releases statement after review

Black Ferns manager Glenn Moore will continue to lead the team into this year’s Rugby World Cup after looking back at team culture.

The review came on the back of veteran hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, who made serious allegations about the team environment under Moore following the side’s north tour last year.

In a statement to the media, Moore said he will draw many “lessons” from the review.

“As manager of the Black Ferns, I am honored to lead the team to the 2022 Women’s Rugby World Cup.

“It is a privilege to work with a highly qualified and experienced management team who have a deep understanding of what it takes to succeed at the top level of the sport and who coach with me a team of extremely talented and motivated players.

“My goal as Black Ferns Coach is to ensure the team excels both on and off the field. I strive to maximize our performance in all aspects of the game and achieve a high standard of excellence. Participating in high level sport, whether as a coach, player or part of the management team can present unique challenges and the findings of the Black Ferns Cultural & Environmental Review released today have identified a number of those challenges. There are lessons to be learned from the review which I am committed to addressing ensure are taken on board.

“I look forward to working with everyone involved across the Black Ferns team, New Zealand Rugby and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association to ensure we have a high performance culture and environment. One that achieves a healthy balance: prioritizing personal well-being At the same time, we accept the pressure that comes from meeting expectations and competing at the elite level of sport, whether as a player, coach or part of the management team. The World Cup is the pinnacle event in women’s history -Rugby and we are all focused on emulating our success at the 2017 World Cup, which we know will be a challenge.”

Watch the press conference in the video player above.


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