Government mulls Black Ferns celebration

By James Perry

Sports Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson has confirmed the government is exploring options for Aotearoa to celebrate the Black Ferns Rugby World Cup victory.

"From our perspective, we want to be able to recognise the Black Ferns. We're looking at and have been talking with the team and NZ Rugby today about an event at Parliament. We've done that before for the men's Rugby World Cup, and the Silver Ferns netball team as well. So that's what we're working towards," he said at Monday's post-cabinet media conference.

He has been in talks with Wellington mayor Tory Whanau about the possibility of a parade through the capital to provide an opportunity for fans to congratulate the world champions but says, if a parade is not possible, an event of some type will occur.

"It will depend on circumstances. But what we are looking to do is make sure we have an event. If you recall the ones we've had outside, many, many people get to be a part of that. We are just working through those details. But we definitely believe we should recognise what they have done and we should recognise it here as we have done for other teams.

"The parade in the end is more for the Council, and that is to do with logistics and how we can move people around and what that means for this particular time of the year. I'm not saying no to that [parade]. I'm saying from our perspective we want to hold an event here to recognise their outstanding achievements

"The team itself is on a two-week break as you would expect after a long tournament and getting back to see their friends and family. So we're working with NZ Rugby and the team on something that we can do here."

Māori influence hard to ignore

Robertson said Māori and Pasifika culture has been significant features of the World Cup and a key to guiding the success of the Black Ferns, who have a roughly 70% representation of Māori and Pasifika players.

"That really flows through. You can see that in the way they go about what they do. The All Blacks have been associated with the haka over a long period of time but I think there's an even broader way in which the Black Ferns reflect te ao Māori but more broadly Aotearoa New Zealand culture."

Calls mount for bonus

Robertson supports calls for the Black Ferns players to be given a performance bonus as a result of winning a sixth World Cup but says it is ultimately a decision for NZR. Its chief executive, Mark Robinson, told RNZ this morning the national body wanted "to do the right thing" and was considering the idea.

"I'd be delighted if that happened, I think they deserve that," Robertson said. "We've made considerable progress in player payments overall for women rugby players but there is always more to do and I certainly think given the performance through the tournament they deserve everything that we can give them."

More support needed for women's sport 

Robertson says the Black Ferns' success proves more support is needed to recognise the growth of women's sport in Aotearoa.

"I think the talent and skill level of this team is extraordinary.

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

"Over time this will happen but we need to get on with it. The quality of what we are seeing deserves the support that should be coming."