Black Ferns accounts for favoritism, body shame and cultural insensitivity in a scathing review | New Zealand

The New Zealand rugby governing body has failed to adequately support women’s high-performance rugby. Some players report favouritism, ghosting, body shaming and culturally insensitive comments, according to a scathing review by one of the world’s top women’s rugby teams.

The 30+ page review with 26 recommendations was initiated after a senior Black Ferns player – Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate – posted on social media that she suffered a mental breakdown following the Black Ferns’ demise in 2021 one-year tour to England and France.

“During the review it became clear that Te Kura’s concerns were not isolated and some other players (particularly Māori and Pasifika players) had either experienced similar behavior from a range of members of management (ranging from ‘favouritism’, ‘ghosting’ , cultural insensitivity ) or had witnessed it or been told about it at the same time,” the review reads.

When asked why the players didn’t complain, they said they were concerned that it would hurt their chances of being selected, that they didn’t know how to make a complaint, or that they were mentioned to management were, but nothing was done.

Ngata-Aerengamate’s post included claims that the coach, Glenn Moore, had made a number of comments to her during her eight years with the team, including: that she had been selected but “didn’t deserve to be on the team”; that he was “ashamed” of her; and she was “chosen only to play guitar”. She also displayed low self-esteem, like walking on eggshells, and that she was verbally abused and made to feel like everything she did was wrong.

Moore did not address Ngata-Aerengamate’s claims directly.

At the time, New Zealand Rugby said it was taking the social media post seriously and would hire an independent panel to conduct the review, which should not determine whether the allegations were true but should provide an opportunity to comment on the culture and environment .

More than 50 current and former players, managers and coaches were interviewed.

The reviewers highlighted a lack of support, unity and communication gaps between players and management.

“New Zealand rugby structures have not adequately supported high-performance women’s rugby in New Zealand,” it said, going on to make key recommendations on the high-performance environment and culture.

It said that while New Zealand rugby had done “a lot of positive work” to lead the Black Ferns into a professional era, it failed to create a high-performance vision and that needs to be addressed.

The group needs to focus more on the rights and well-being of its players and management, and there is room to build cultural competence.

The review also cited a lack of cultural diversity and women in the Black Ferns’ management structure, noting that the team itself is “an elite female team of which 50% Māori and 25% are Pacifica”.

New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Mark Robinson said in a statement: “This report highlights that we have not done everything right and we apologize for not providing all the tools for our people to succeed.”

“The Black Ferns have been great ambassadors for rugby; They have won five out of seven Rugby World Cups since their inception and have contributed significantly to the mana and legacy of New Zealand rugby in that time. the current player group and management are part of that,” said Robinson.

Moore retains his role as coach and will lead the team into this year’s World Cup. In a statement, he said he accepted the findings of the review, but participating in high-level sport presents unique challenges. “There are lessons from the review. I am committed to ensuring that these are taken into account.”

Women in Rugby Aotearoa Chair Traci Houpapa told RNZ she was surprised Moore retained his role. “It sends a message to say they are maintaining the status quo… [New Zealand Rugby] got to think about what that sends out to the players and the rugby community,” she said.

“I think the report tells us in many ways what we already knew, that these are long-term, systemic issues that affect and affect women who want to play rugby in Aotearoa.”

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