April 5 (Reuters) – New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has launched an ambitious 10-year plan to transform the women’s game and tap into the explosion of interest sparked by the Black Ferns triumph on home soil at last year’s World Cup.
The governing body undertook 1,500 hours of consultation with more than 2,200 people in the rugby community before drafting the New Zealand Women and Girls in Rugby System Strategy, which was released on Wednesday.
“We are riding an extraordinary wave of excitement and engagement with women’s rugby in Aotearoa, the likes of which we’ve never seen,” NZR chair Patsy Reddy said at the launch in Auckland.
“We truly believe that rugby is a game for all and there’s a huge opportunity ahead of us over the next decade to engage more women and girls. What’s crucial is that it is done in a deliberate, structured, and focused way.”
NZR will invest NZ$21 million ($13.24 million) in “women’s rugby initiatives” this year under its action plan, including the employment of six new officials around the country to drive the change.
Guided by the strategy, New Zealand’s provincial rugby unions will draw up their own action plans to deliver key objectives.
Among the objectives is an average increase of 2,500 women and girls playing the game every year to achieve a target of 50,000 by 2033.
“The impact the Black Ferns victory has had on our local community is massive and there’s huge interest and growth in playing numbers,” said Tanya Dearns, chief executive of the Mid Canterbury Rugby Union.
“We want those women and girls to feel safe, love playing, become leaders on our club boards and stay involved in the game for life.”
Competition for young female athletes might be stiff, however, with New Zealand Football also looking to leverage its co-hosting of the Women’s World Cup with Australia in July and August.
($1 = 1.5855 New Zealand dollars)
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